Food and clothing sales received a boost last month as the UK recorded the warmest May on record. A 3.5% increase in total sales volume between April and May has been welcomed by retailers but they remain cautious about the economic outlook.
The figures, released by the Office National Statistics today (June 19) show growth between the two months is the highest since records began in 1986. Sales volume in predominantly food stores rose by 3.3%, also a record figure, with non-food sales up by 3.9%, the largest growth since March 1991. Meanwhile sales in “other stores”, including mobile phones and games have increased by 5.4%, over the three months from March, its largest growth since record began.
The ONS says the average value of weekly sales in May was £5.3bn, up 7% on last year and the highest growth since since March 2002. Value sales in food stores is up by 7.8% over the year and non-food value sales are up by 6.4%.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, says the ONS figures confirm its findings for May but he warns that economic fundamentals remain weak. He adds: “Much of this sales growth is the result of discounts and promotions and people are still reluctant to buy more expensive items.”
“Personal finances are under severe and mounting pressure. Customers are concerned about jobs and the housing market. So it remains to be seen whether this sun-driven boost is sustained over the coming months.”