May retail sales down 0.4% on 2016, latest trade figures show

In May, UK retail sales decreased by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from May 2016, when they had increased 0.5% from the preceding year, according to the British Retail Consortium.

On a total basis, sales rose 0.2% in May, against a growth of 1.4% in May 2016. This is the lowest since January, excluding Easter distortions, and below the 3-month and 12-month averages of 1.9% and 1.2% respectively.

Over the three months to May, food sales increased 3.2% on a like-for-like basis and 4.3% on a total basis. This is the strongest 3-month average since February 2012, excluding Easter distortions. This pulls the 12-month total average growth to 2.2%, the highest since January 2014.

Over the three-months to May, non-food retail sales in the UK decreased 0.3% on a like-for-like basis and increased 0.1% on a total basis, below the 12-month Total average growth to 0.5%. May’s total non-food performance was the worst recorded since May 2016.

Over the three-months to May, online sales of non-food products grew 7.0% while In-store sales declined 1.8% on a total basis and 2.3% on a like-for-like basis, below the like-for-like 12-month average decline of 2.0%.

Garden retailers have reported a tougher May following a strong April. Most reported a weaker first three weeks of the month, but improvement in the last week and the beginning of April, after 11% average year-to-date growth by the end of April.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "After the pick-up in sales over Easter, consumer spending slowed again in May resulting in almost flat growth on the previous year. Underneath the headlines, there’s continued variation in the performance of food versus non-food products, as sales performance of the two become increasingly polarised. Food sales, albeit positively distorted by inflation, continue to see annual growth, while in non-food categories which are predominantly capturing discretionary spending, retailers find themselves having to compete even harder.

"Overall, May’s sales slowdown is indicative of a longer term trend of a decline in consumer spending power. As household budgets become increasingly squeezed by inflation, predominantly in the non-retail part of the consumer basket, it’s vital that the next Government helps retailers keep prices low for ordinary shoppers. This means, as well as securing a tariff-free trade deal with the EU, negotiating frictionless customs arrangements; providing certainty for EU colleagues working in the UK; and ensuring the continuity of existing EU legislation as it transfers into UK law."


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