Retail sales creep up in May after months of decline


Retail sales in the UK picked up last month as all categories rose in like-for-likes. It appears that shoppers were less reluctant to part with their money in May, however, anxieties surrounding the political climate still remain.

 All sectors rose by 0.5% in comparison to a 0.9% fall in April according to a survey by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG. Following two flat months, UK spending increased by 1.4% year-on-year  -this was lifted by clothing sales in particular.

Figures from Barclaycard also indicated that consumer spending rose by 3.6% year-on-year, the first growth after the previous two months of decline.

Over the last three months food sales rose by 0.3%, while non-food increased by 0.6%.

The survey noted that some of the best performing categories were children’s clothing and footwear, spurred by parents purchasing items for the warmer months and the half term holiday.

 “Today’s figures bring better news for the UK’s retailers. After two months of flat sales May saw growth of 1.4 per cent. While still not spectacular, it is in line with the 12-month average of 1.5 per cent” commented Helen Dickinson, BRC Chief Executive.

“Clothing made a big comeback this month after suffering declines in April. This appears to be due to consumers waiting for just the right moment before embarking on their pre-summer spending. However, with signs that the UK‘s economy is slowing it‘s unlikely that this is the beginning of a complete reversal of fortunes. The uncertain outlook means that customers will remain cautious with their spending, therefore we expect sales figures to remain volatile for the time being.

“While this month’s pick-up in sales will come as a welcome relief, it’s still a challenging time for retailers. Shop price deflation continues and intensity of competition is fierce. Controlling costs and improving efficiency and productivity will be crucial for retailers as they continue to navigate increasingly tough trading conditions” added Dickinson.

 “Overall, retail sales showed some improvement in the month, up 1.4% in total versus May last year. Despite rain dampening the May Day mood, fashion sales finally lifted following a tough three months of trading for retailers. The appearance of some spring sunshine encouraged consumers to hit the sales and take advantage of early summer promotions” said David McCorquoale, Head of Retail at KPMG.

“With a summer of sport kicking off in June and festival season getting underway, retailers will be hoping that the feel good factor coupled with a dose of summer sunshine will keep the tills ringing over the summer months.”


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