Retail sales growth slump could be offset by World Cup revenues

 
Peter Spence
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Analysts had expected retail sales to drop in May (Source: Getty)

Retail sales dropped by 0.5 per cent in May, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A fall of that level had been forecast by economists. What they weren't expecting was the softer annual growth also reported.

Year-on-year, sales rose by just 3.9 per cent in the year to May, lower than the 4.3 per cent growth expected by a poll of analysts.

In a preview of today's release, HSBC analysts pointed out that sales growth was strong both last year, in May 2013, and in the previous month, April 2014. That sets a very high base for this month's figures to be compared to.

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s head of retail, Keith Richardson, says that retailers "across all categories will now look to capitalise on the World Cup". If the England team continues to the latter stages of the tournament then Richardson suggests this could buoy the bottom lines of retailers.

"For food retailers in particular, the month-long football festival represents an opportunity to regain some of the ground lost by their prolonged discounting campaigns," says Richardson.

The three-month on previous three-month movement shows that sales rose for their 15th consecutive month, up by 1.3 per cent. The longest period of sustained expansion since November 2007.

Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First, is expecting to see sales bounce back in summer month, with June's spending almost certain to be higher once the World Cup is taken into account. Cook also sees retailers benefiting from the approaching 'back to school' sales despite an environment of falling real wages.

Generally, HSBC said that "the levels suggest that the uptrend in retail sales remains in place". As does the trend towards online shopping. The amount spent online increased by 15.1 per cent in May 2014 compared with the same month the year before, and by 1.5 per cent in May alone.

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