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Retail sales flat in May

UK retail sales were flat on a like-for-like basis in May compared to the same month in 2014 when they increased by 0.5% year-on-year. On total basis, sales rose by 1.1% against a 2% increase in May last year.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Retail sales flat in May

The figures published by the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen in their monthly shop price index show that furniture was the top performing category and achieved it best growth since July, excluding Easter distortions.

Meanwhile, the clothing and footwear categories were amongst the worst performing, reporting their deepest declines since September.

Total food sales grew by 0.5% over the three months to May, ahead of their 0.5% decline over the last 12 months.

Total non-food sales edged up 2.8% over the same period, in line with their 12-month average growth, which for the first time since December, fell below the 3% mark.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “May witnessed a slow-down in sales growth, below the three-month and twelve-month average. This was mainly due to fashion sales, which experienced a decline compared with the same month last year, where we saw record demand.

“Nevertheless, May also had some positive developments. Amongst all categories, furniture performed strongest, an indication of continuing consumer confidence. There was also good news on food: after six months of marginal growth year-on-year, we are now starting to see a stabilisation in food sales despite the highly competitive market environment.

“Interestingly, May sales also reflected the growing consumer interest in fitness and healthier lifestyles.”

Looking at online, sales of non-food products grew by 9.9% in May versus a year earlier, when they had risen by 17% over the previous year. Online sales represented 17.4% of total non-food sales, against 16.2% in May 2014.    

Online growth in furniture and household appliances accelerated over their April performance, while the fashion categories suffered the most from the strong comparative in May 2014.  

Online sales contributed 1.4 percentage points to the growth of non-food total sales in May. The three-month average contribution of online sales represented over 60% of non-food growth, in sharp contrast with May 2014, when it represented less than 40%.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Against particularly strong comparables last year, May’s online growth rate has tapered off slightly compared to April.

“However, the popularity of online shopping continues to grow with the three-month average growth rate up to 12.5% and online penetration up across all sectors. As investment being made by many retailers in omnichannel systems remains unabated, this reflects the continued importance of this channel for consumer and retailer alike.”

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