BRC: retail upturn slows

RECOVERY in the UK retail sector slowed in May, as sales volumes returned to normal following a stellar April, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and accountancy firm KPMG.<br /><br />Retail sales in May fell 0.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and rose just 0.8 per cent on a total basis &ndash; when sales at retail outlets opened in the past year are included &ndash; compared to April, when sunny weather boosted like-for-like sales by 4.6 per cent.<br /><br />Food sales fell after receiving an April lift from the early arrival of Easter, although they picked up slightly towards the end of the month as a minor heatwave boosted sales of ice cream and soft drinks.<br /><br />Meanwhile, clothing and footwear sales were down on the same period last year, while sales of high-value homeware and furniture sales remained depressed.<br /><br />Sales made over the phone, via the internet or by mail order were 7.6 per cent higher than last year, following the fall in in-store sales, but still significantly below April&rsquo;s year-on-year rise of 12.5 per cent.<br /><br />Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium said: &ldquo;Sun and bank holidays don&rsquo;t a recovery make.This May was always going to be difficult because the comparison is with strong May sales last year which delivered some of 2008's best growth figures,&rdquo; he added. <br /><br />In health and beauty, sales were below their level of last year, despite a boost in sales of suncare and hayfever products with the hot weather.<br /><br />Leisure goods sales were also slower, with and console sales struggling to keep up with the frenzy surrounding last year's launch of Nintendo&rsquo;s Wii Fit. But warm conditions helped the sale of outdoor toys and camping gear.