Retail sales offer some sun for the UK economy as shoppers grab their summer goods

Helen Cahill
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Sports fixtures and summer sun could give retailers the lift they need (Source: Getty)

Retail sales volume in May increased by six per cent compare with the same month last year, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), providing some good news for the embattled retail sector.

Including petrol prices, average store prices fell by 2.8 per cent in May as compared to May 2015.

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Shoppers were slightly more buoyant in May than they were the previous month; the amount bought increased by 0.9 per cent as compared with April. The total retail spend also increased slightly in May, up by 1.3 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, the numbers show ecommerce has continued on an upwards trend. The value of online sales was in double-digit growth, rising by 21.5 per cent in May this year compared to May last year, and by 6.4 per cent compared to April 2016.

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The figures come as good news for the high street which has been battling with the closure of two giants, with BHS being "wound down" recently, and Austin Reed shutting its shops.

Footfall also edged up slightly year-on-year in May, but analysts were cautious to label this as a recovery for the high street.

Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said:

Retail sales were buoyant in May as warmer weather finally lifted demand for summer clothing and fashions, and outdoor goods as well.

This gives a major lift to hopes that GDP growth is holding up better in the second quarter than had seemed likely given the mounting uncertainty surrounding next Thursday’s EU membership referendum.

The prospects for retail sales will be influenced markedly by whether or not the UK votes to stay in the EU next Thursday.

Keith Richardson, Lloyds Commercial Banking's head of retail, said:

Much like the warmer weather that helped bring it about, a second successive month of rising sales is welcome news for retailers.

When it arrived, the first signs of sunshine – combined with some targeted promotions – had shoppers scurrying to buy lighter clothes, barbecues and gardening equipment.

Now, hope switches to the home nations’ footballers to score on the high street as well, with the footballing feelgood factor long proven to make itself felt on the high street.

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