Retailers look forward to summer of sport as sales rise

The high street gained some ground last month with sales boosted by 'spring sunshine' after a stagnant retail revenue performance in the previous two months.

Shoppers on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

The imminent summer of sport kicking off this month was also hailed as a potential tailwind for better prospects in the coming months, according to the retail sales monitor published today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

Total sales last month lifted 1.4 per cent year-on-year, while like‑for‑like sales rose 1.4 per cent. The best performing sector was toys and baby equipment, particularly outdoor toys during the first half of the month which included the early bank holiday weekend, when temperatures and sunshine hours were higher than long-term averages for the period.

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Clothing was also a strong performer. Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “Today’s figures bring better news for the UK’s retailers. After two months of flat sales May saw growth of 1.4 per cent.

“While still not spectacular, it is in line with the 12-month average of 1.5 per cent. Clothing made a big comeback this month after suffering declines in April.

“This appears to be due to be due to consumers waiting for just the right moment before embarking on their pre-summer spending.”

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David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “The appearance of some spring sunshine encouraged consumers to hit the sales and take advantage of early summer promotions.

“The standout category, however, was children’s footwear, and children’s clothing also saw a boost as parents kitted out the kids for the warmer weather and half term holidays.

“Mild relief also continued for the grocers with total food and drink sales remaining positive in the month.”

McCorquodale added: “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.”

Taking up that theme, Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, which supplied the food data for the report, said: “There is further cause for optimism.

“Big international football tournaments are usually good for food and drink sales and this time there are three UK teams to support [in the Euro 2016 tournament that begins this Friday].”

Despite the recovery last month, the BRC chief executive warned that wider UK economic conditions made it unlikely that the May retail performance heralded a complete reversal of fortunes for the sector.

Dickinson said it remained “a challenging time” for retailers, with shop price deflation and intense competition suggesting volatility on the high street would continue for some time yet.