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Gloomy weather hits UK retail sales as shoppers hold off summer purchases

Sales fall 0.5% in May with clothing purchases declining 4.5%

Olesya Dmitracova
Thursday 20 June 2019 10:24 BST
Online sales as a share of all retailing remained at a record 19.3 % in May
Online sales as a share of all retailing remained at a record 19.3 % in May (Getty/iStock)

British shoppers were reluctant to spend in May, with sales dipping slightly compared with April, dragged down by a 4.5 per cent fall in clothing purchases.

Retail sales dropped 0.5 per cent last month, the Office for National Statistics said. In the three months to May, sales picked up by 1.6 per cent compared with the previous three-month period.

The ONS noted anecdotal evidence from retailers suggesting that consumers held off buying summer clothes as a result of poor weather in May. “Warmer weather also brought forward sales in March and April 2019, which increased levels of spending in these months,” it added.

Online sales as a share of all retailing remained at a record 19.3 per cent in May.

“After Easter's heatwaves, a couple of drizzly bank holidays and a nation pre-occupied by politics, things were never going to bode well for May's retail sales,” said Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC.

“We don’t believe that this is a sign of weaker consumer confidence… But it does show how vulnerable the sector is to both short-term factors – for example, national events, weather – as well as the need to structurally reinvent the high street to give consumers more reasons to visit, particularly given increasing net store closures.”

The year so far has been marked by a string of high-profile failures among bricks-and-mortar retailers, including Debenhams, LK Bennett and OddBins, and a near-miss by Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.


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