UK retail 'recovers' in May, fashion stronger but inflation erodes gains - official stats

It can be difficult to get a clear picture of exactly what's happening in UK retail at the moment with so many reports from so many tracking specialists showing different results. But on Thursday, the office for National statistics (ONS) released its official figures and the news was broadly positive.


UK fashion retail was a little stronger in May, according to official statistics


It seems that the good weather and the royal wedding really did boost retail sales and the figures were reasonably good for the fashion sector, although it’s clear that fashion hasn't been able to make up for the slower sales it has seen over the last nine months.

Overall during May, the volume of goods sold in Britain rose 1.3% compared with the previous month with growth seen across all main sectors.

And year-on-year growth was even better at 3.9%, which meant that May showed a growth acceleration compared to the few previous months when the year-on-year figures had been much more anaemic. 

But it has to be said, it wasn't exactly cause for excessive celebration given that growth in May 2017 had been weak and that pent up demand still couldn't rescue the spring season after the weather in March and April had proved very un-spring-like.

But on the upside, the ONS said online retailing showed growth of 16.2% on a volume basis year-on-year, while online spending for department stores and clothing stores continued to rise, “achieving new record proportions of online retailing in May at 17.4% and 17.6% respectively.”

The proportion of online spending in clothing stores has grown at a much faster rate in the last 14 months, from 14.7% in March 2017 to 17.6% in May 2018.

Physical department stores and clothing stores weren't so buoyant however. Department stores saw volume growth of 2.9% and value growth of 3.7%, although much of that value figure would have been accounted for by the impact of inflation. Textile, clothing and footwear stores saw volume growth of only half a percent, while value growth was 2%, a figure that would have been completely wiped out by inflation.

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