RETAILERS suffered a disappointing May despite a slight pick-up in food sales and strong growth seen in furniture, according to figures out today .
Sales were flat on a like-for-like basis compared to last year, with clothing and rootwear categories amongst the worst performing as they saw their steepest declines since September.
Helen Dickinson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium, said despite the weak overall figure, there had been some positive signs.
“Amongst all categories, furniture performed strongest, an indication of continuing consumer confidence,” she said.
“There was also good news on food where after six months of marginal growth year-on-year, we are now starting to see a stabilisation in food sales despite the highly competitive market environment.”
Total food sales grew 0.5 per cent over the 3 months to May, ahead of their 0.5 per cent decline over the last 12 months.
David McCorquodale, head of retail for KPMG, said the improvement in food sales reflected the “relentless grind for growth” from the supermarket chains which he believed was an encouraging sign.
“However, as highlighted by a decline on a like-for-like basis, this recovery continues in the eye of a price deflation storm which continues to benefit the consumer.”
He said the conclusive result in the general election and its positive impact on the housing market had fuelled growth for furniture and homeware sales.
“As economists predict another housing boom for the second half of 2015, these trends could be set to continue,” he predicted.
He added that retailers will be hoping that an improving job market, low inflation rate and better weather will see a wider sales improvement in June.