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LONDON: British retail sales unexpectedly fell sharply last month, according to official data which suggested at least some consumers were more focused on England's progress in the Euro 2020 soccer tournament than going to the shops.
Retail sales volumes dropped by 2.5% in July from June, the Office for National Statistics said.
A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a 0.4% month-on-month increase in sales in July.
The ONS said retailers had said the combination of Euro 2020 - which saw England reach the final of the tournament - and bad weather kept shoppers away from shops in July.
Food store sales were down by 1.5% while non-food stories reported a fall of 4.4%.
However, sales were up by 5.8% compared with their pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020, the ONS said.
In a possible sign of renewed caution among shoppers after a rise in COVID cases as well as bad weather in Britain in much of July, the ONS said online sales rose to 27.9% of total spending after falling to a pandemic low in June.
Separate data showed borrowing by Britain's government in the first four months of the 2021/22 financial year was running 26 billion pounds ($35.43 billion) below an estimate set out by the Office for Budget Responsibility in March. - Reuters