Retail sales bounced back in May following a lull in April laid at the door of bad weather, new figures have suggested.
Total UK retail sales in May were up 3.1% on the year before, with volumes up 1.9%, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Food sales were up by 3.4% year-on-year, although volumes were down 0.5%.
“Feedback from supermarkets suggested that store promotions throughout the month led to an increase in sales,” the ONS said.
“The growth is also a ‘bounce back’ from a poor April, where sales were affected by unseasonal cold weather.”
“Yes, food sales are up, but the real question remains at what price to the retailers”
David McCorquodale, KPMG
Indeed, total sales in May were up 2.1% on April, with volumes up by the same amount.
KPMG’s UK head of retail, David McCorquodale, said the figures showed a “solid performance” from UK retailers, but he warned reliance on promotions will have eaten into retailers’ margins.
“It has been a battlefield in the supermarkets with blanket discounting campaigns and price-match schemes used to persuade customers to shop in their stores. When one grocer pushes the discount button, the others are forced to follow suit in order to protect their market share.
“This relentless campaign on price must be damaging their margins and shows no sign of abating, because customers remain highly sensitive about food prices, which eat into such a high proportion of their household budget. So yes, food sales are up, but the real question remains at what price to the retailers.”
Online food sales in May made up 3.4% of all food sales, the ONS said, reaching £96.7m.
Non-food stores saw an increase in sales of 2%, with volumes up 2.2%, the organisation added.