Retail sales recover as the sun comes out in May


Shoppers glimpsing a moment of sun rushed to the shops for summer clothes, barbecue essentials and garden accessories last month, boosting retail sales.

Total sales were up 4.1 per cent on the same time last year, while like-for-like sales values growth jumped to 2.8 per cent, according to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) retail sales monitor.

This strong performance of the high street in May contrasted to a dismal April, when wet weather pushed sales down by 3.1 per cent on the year.

However, analysts at Pantheon Macro said that “such strong growth likely won’t be sustained in coming months”.

Shoppers embarked on “catch-up spending” once the sun came out, while the Royal Wedding and FA Cup Final likely had a one-off effect, as noted by data from Kantar.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retail sales in May saw their highest growth since January 2014 as better weather and the bank holiday effect led shoppers to buy from garden furniture and summer fashion ranges; recovering some of the ground lost in April.

KPMG’s UK head of retail Paul Martin said the Retail Sales Monitor for the month of May provided a much needed uplift to retail performance.

“Two bank holiday weekends, a royal wedding and of course sunnier spells will have been the main drivers behind the apparent rebound, with both online and high street sales thankfully up overall,” he said.

“Grocery sales once again continued to be strong, boosted by added enthusiasm for picnics and barbeques.

“Elsewhere, appetite for non-food categories, including fashion, also experienced a welcome uplift.

“That said, the picture was less favourable in the larger discretionary categories such as home improvement and furniture.”

He added that while the latest monthly figures painted a rosy picture, there was no room for complacency.

“The market is increasingly being split into winners and losers, with a number of legacy players continuing to face extremely challenging conditions,” he said.

“As such, focusing on transforming businesses both operationally and financially is pivotal.”

Meanwhile, a separate report from Barclaycard said consumer spending grew by 5.1 per cent year-on-year in May – the highest level recorded since April 2017.

It said the warmer weather over the early May bank holiday encouraged shoppers to head out and spend their money.

Overall, Barclaycard said spending in garden centres was up by 23.8 per cent in May compared with a year earlier, while pub spending reached 12.5 per cent overall growth.

Despite the strong growth seen in spending, the proportion of people saying they felt confident about their household finances edged down in May, down to 57 per cent from 62 per cent in April.

Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said: “In the next few months, we expect to see families carefully balancing their budgets to ensure they don’t miss out on their must-see and must-do experiences of the summer.”