Retail sales grow at strongest rate in May

BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor
The ongoing easing of social-distancing restrictions and continued pent-up demand for in-store shopping drove the spike in sales during May
// Retail sales increased at strongest rate since pandemic hit UK
// Total sales increased 10% in May compared with the same month in 2019
// Online sales were a major factor in the surging sales figures

Retail sales have grown at the strongest rate in May since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UK last year.

Total sales increased 10 per cent in May compared with the same month in 2019, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

That outstripped the 7.3 per cent gains made in April on a two-year basis and the 8.3 per cent growth recorded in March.


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Like-for-like sales jumped 23.7 per cent last month compared with May 2019, when sales decreased three per cent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, online sales were a major factor in the surging sales figures with non-food ecommerce sales climbing 39.1 per cent on May 2019 levels.

The BRC and KPMG said that the ongoing easing of social-distancing restrictions and continued pent-up demand for in-store shopping drove the spike in sales during May.

Non-food sales overall were up 7.5 per cent in the three months to the end of May, compared with the same period in 2019, while food sales increased 9.8 per cent.

“Retail sales were buoyant in May thanks to the reopening of hospitality, coupled with the afterglow of non-essential retail’s own return,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Pent-up demand for the in-store shopping experience, as well as the first signs of summer weather, helped retail to the strongest sales growth of the pandemic.

“There is a growing sense of consumer confidence, boosted not only by the widespread uptake of vaccinations and testing, but also retailers’ own significant investment in safety measures.

“Large cities have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with so many people still working from home and footfall remaining considerably down as shoppers increasingly choose to shop local.

“Now is the time to consider what our future high streets and town centres will look like a decade from now.”

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin said: “The rain in May failed to dampen consumer demand and shoppers continued to return to the high street.

“Clothing retailers were the biggest beneficiaries of pent-up demand, clocking up increases of more than 100 per cent as an easing of restrictions saw stores reopen and social events slowly come back on the agenda.

“Although some spend has migrated to the high street, there was still high penetration of online spending in May, reinforcing the view that the pandemic has seen a step-up in online activity as some consumers maintain their use of this channel out of habit and choice, and some remain nervous about venturing back into stores.”

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