Sunny days but gloomy May for retail sales

Click to follow
The Independent Online

May's sunny weather failed to keep retail sales in positive territory as the Easter boost proved hard to sustain, figures revealed today.

The high street saw like-for-like sales slip by 0.8% in May against a year ago, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KMPG survey.



The BRC said May's drop was "disappointing" after a surprise 4.6% surge the previous month, caused by a late Easter and early spring sunshine.



Non-food sales suffered amid ongoing tough market conditions for "big ticket" items and electricals.



Even the burgeoning online retail market experienced a difficult month, with non-food, non-store sales growth slowing to its lowest level in at least seven months at 7.6%.



But the BRC said May's result was impacted by a strong comparison last year, when sales rocketed 1.9% in what marked the last rise in 2008.



It added that the three-month average also continued to show improvement, up 0.7% on a like-for-like basis.



Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: "These figures may look disappointing after last month's positive results were flattered by the timing of Easter, but extremely challenging market conditions, particularly for the non-food sectors, continue."



She added: "We might have expected better figures as, while there are consumers struggling financially due to actual, or the prospect of, job losses, there are also those with greater disposable income due to lower mortgage payments, easing inflation and lower fuel costs. It remains to be seen when those who have cash to spare will feel confident to start spending again."



Food sales continue to hold up well, ahead by 5.4% on a comparable basis in the three months to May.



Hotter weather last month saw demand soar for salads and barbecue foods, although the growth was lower than that seen in April.



Clothing sales also eased back from the month before, although summer items flew off shelves towards the end of May.



Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "Sun and bank holidays don't a recovery make.



"Warm weather and days-off produced some good performances for seasonal clothing and outdoor living products such as gardening goods and summer food and drink.



"But this May was always going to be difficult because the comparison is with strong May sales last year which delivered some of 2008's best growth figures."

Comments