Tuesday 7 June 2016 12:10 am

Retail sales back to growth in May as warmer weather encourages spending

Retail sales picked up in May as consumers took to the internet to start their summer splurge.

Sales grew by 1.4 per cent in the UK retail industry, following two months of flat-lining, in a welcome, if modest, boost to the struggling industry, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Once again, however, sales growth was driven entirely by the buoyant performance of online retailers, who comfortably outperformed their counterparts on the high street. While in-store sales dipped, online sales grew by 13.7 per cent over the year to May, more than double the rate of growth registered in April.

Experts said that the return of warmer weather during the month encouraged customers to start refreshing their wardrobes and buying outdoor equipment. 

Read more: Economic growth pinned on consumer spending

"[Online] retailers saw positive growth in all categories while fashion sales throughout the month proved particularly popular with online shoppers," said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

Dickinson warned however: "The uncertain outlook means that customers will remain cautious with their spending, therefore we expect sales figures to remain volatile for the time being."

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, however, said that a packed summer calendar and forecasts of warm weather could provide a much-needed boost both to online and offline retailers: “With a summer of sport kicking off in June and festival season getting underway, retailers will be hoping that the feel good factor coupled with a dose of summer sunshine will keep the tills ringing over the summer months.”

With a string of other economic reports, including weak purchasing managers indexes (PMIs) in the construction and manufacturing industries, consumer spending is expected to be the only driver of growth in the second quarter.