Diamond Jubilee and the sunshine boost May retail sales

The British Retail Consortium has reported that UK retail sales values in the past month were up 1.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis from May 2011, when they were down 2.1 per cent on a year ago. On a total basis, sales were up 3.4 per cent, against a 0.3 per cent decline in May 2011.

It was determined that miserable weather at the start of the month, which turned to glorious sunshine for one wonderful week, boosted sales of food and drink, clothing and footwear to turn around what could have been a dismal May.

Online (including mail-order and phone) sales of non-food items showed particularly strong growth, up 12.4 per cent against growth of 10.4 per cent last year.  Sales growth returned to levels more consistent with the 12-month average.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “As the relentlessly difficult underlying conditions continue to make trading tough for retailers, any temporary boost is of even greater importance and retailers had plenty of reason to celebrate the eventual arrival of summer at the end of May. Much of the month’s positive performance can be attributed to spending in the final week when consumers responded enthusiastically to the sun coming out. Garden centres enjoyed a boom in the number of people investing in new lawnmowers to tackle overgrown grass. Retailers will be hoping the boost continues, sustained by this summer’s celebrations and sporting events.”

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: “Retailers are hoping that the Jubilee celebrations will have helped to pull out them of the mire, but a short-term patriotic spending spree will not overcome the underlying difficulties facing the industry – which remains under pressure from a combination of declining consumer confidence and squeezed incomes.

“After a dismal April, May was a much better month and many retailers will be breathing a small sigh of relief. No sector put in a star performance, but a focus on spending on children was evident and childrenswear saw a double-digit uplift in sales. Businesses in the home-related sectors, where good weather runs counter to strong performance, found the going much tougher.  Those not selling big-ticket home-related items are hoping the sun stays out all summer long.”