Store sales bounced back in May as sunshine and bank holidays boosted spending
Retailers saw sales bounce back during May's better weather - with the strongest growth seen in more than four years as shoppers flocked to garden centres, soaked up the sun in pubs' beer gardens and splashed out on summer wardrobes.
Total sales increased by 4.1% year-on-year in May, compared with a 0.2% annual increase in May 2017.
This was the highest increase since January 2014, excluding Easter distortions, according to the findings in the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG retail sales monitor.
In April, total retail sales had shrunk sharply by 3.1% year-on-year, with the cold weather seen as partly to blame for households tightening their belts.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG, said: "Two bank holiday weekends, a royal wedding and of course sunnier spells will have been the main drivers behind the apparent rebound, with both online and high street sales thankfully up overall."
Helen Dickinson, chief executive, BRC, said: "Retail sales in May saw their highest growth since January 2014 as better weather and the bank holiday effect led shoppers to buy from garden furniture and summer fashion ranges; recovering some of the ground lost in April.
"Food sales also stood out with the best single month's performance since July 2013."
She said that despite the more positive findings, the retail environment remained "extremely challenging", adding: "Margins remain tight and the competition fierce."
She continued: "The FA Cup final and royal wedding may have got the nation in the mood for celebration but the day itself was a distraction for shoppers as they stayed at home to watch the festivities; sales also tailed off once the party was over."
Meanwhile, a separate report from Barclaycard said consumer spending grew by 5.1% year-on-year in May - the highest level recorded since April 2017.
It said the warmer weather over the early May bank holiday encouraged shoppers to head out and spend their money.
Spending on women's clothing saw its first increase since June 2017, Barclaycard said.
Spending in garden centres surged by 50.3% over the three-day early May bank holiday weekend compared with the same long weekend in 2017, Barclaycard said.
DIY spending was up by 19.7%, spending in pubs jumped by 19% and supermarket spending increased by 10.1% over the same period.
Overall, spending in garden centres was up by 23.8% in May compared with a year earlier, Barclaycard said.
Pub spending reached 12.5% overall growth in May as people flocked to beer gardens to make the most of the sunshine.
Despite the strong growth seen in spending, Barclaycard said the proportion of people saying they felt confident about their household finances edged down in May, to 57%, from 62% in April.
Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: "In the next few months, we expect to see families carefully balancing their budgets to ensure they don't miss out on their must-see and must-do experiences of the summer."