Blast of summer boosts retail sales

Shopper A blast of summer sun at the end of last month triggered a surge in food and clothing sales after weeks of heavy rainfall, a major trade association has said.

Retail sales by value were up 1.3% on a like-for-like basis in May, following a sharp 3.3% decline in the previous month, reported the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC, which represents 60% of retailers, said miserable weather at the start of May led to pent up demand and then as the weather improved shoppers hit the high streets.
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Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "Much of the month's positive performance can be attributed to spending in the final week when consumers responded enthusiastically to the sun coming out."

Children's clothing was the stand-out performer, the BRC said, while women's clothing sales were the strongest of the year so far as sales of outerwear, knitwear and jeans turned to summer dresses, skirts and swimwear as the month progressed.

Some commented that April's downpours led to pent-up demand which was unleashed at the first sign of summer, the BRC said. Men's clothing was also up on last year as shorts, casual jerseys and swimwear sold well.

Food sales were up on a year ago as the purchase of home-baking products, potatoes and stewing meats were replaced with salads, fruits, ice-cream and barbecue foods as the weather improved. Non-alcoholic beverages, wines, beers and spirits also sold very well compared with a much cooler May last year.

Despite the apparent arrival of summer lifting shoppers' spirits, the underlying trend of customers searching for good value continued, the BRC added. Online, mail-order and phone sales of non-food items showed stronger growth, up 12.4% against growth of 10.4% last year.

Mr Robertson added: "It's likely the prolonged wet period helped create pent-up demand and people also felt more relaxed about their spending as the sun created a feelgood boost."

According to official figures, total retail sales volumes plunged by a worse-than-expected 2.3% in April as the record rainfall dampened demand for clothing, although this was distorted by a record plunge in petrol and diesel sales. A BRC survey also showed that Britain's high streets witnessed the worst decline in shopper numbers since November 2009 in April.

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