Growth in retail sales dips after jump at Easter

RETAIL sales climbed steadily with the continuing recovery in May, but at a slower pace than in April, following the effect of a late Easter Weekend.

In a survey of major retailers, 38 per cent said that their sales volumes were up in comparison to May last year, while 22 per cent said they had fallen, giving the survey a 16 per cent net balance. The balance was 30 percentage points in April, and had been expected to increase this month.

Despite the slight disappointment, it is the sixth month in which the survey has posted significant growth, with a net balance of at least 10 percentage points. There has not been a drop in year-on-year sales for a year. The retail-heavy Easter weekend fell in April this year, and March during 2013, making sales particularly strong last month.

Groceries, hardware, furniture and footwear sales were all strong, with a net balance at least twice as high as the average for the sub-sectors.

“The fundamentals for consumers are currently improving overall, and they should continue to do so over the coming months as employment continues to rise and earnings growth likely trends higher than inflation,” said Howard Archer, IHS Global Insight’s chief economist.

Expectations for the months ahead are still strong among retailers, with 43 per cent expecting sales volumes to rise in June, and only 13 per cent expecting a decline.