Retail volumes decline in May

Retail volumes in the UK dropped by 0.5 per cent in May, following an increase of 0.4 per cent in the previous month, according to the latest ONS figures.

But sales volumes were still 2.6 per cent above their pre-covid February 2020 levels.

Across the three months to May, sales volumes were down 1.3 per cent compared to the previous 12-weeks. ONS said the figures echo the downward trend recorded since summer last year.

The decline in sales volumes was largely driven by food stores, which saw numbers drop by 1.6 per cent, likely linked to rising inflation and the cost of living.

Non-food store sales remained the same, while clothing sales increased by 2.2 per cent.

But household goods were also down by 2.3 per cent, including furniture stores, and department stores saw sales decline 1.1 per cent.

While online sales are still substantially higher than before the pandemic, the proportion of digital sales fell to 26.6 per cent in May from 27.1 per cent in April.

“Inflation remains a key issue for retail businesses, who are having to grapple with growing supply chain costs, as well as keeping their stores afloat and staff well compensated," said Lynda Petherick, retail lead, Accenture UK & Ireland. "For consumers, rising costs for staple goods mean many don’t have excess money to spend on discretionary items.”

Petherick added: "There have been calls to help consumers by keeping prices down, which will be easier said than done for retailers. Increasing costs will have left many firms short this summer, particularly at a time when customers are usually spending more. Retailers with the right technology in place to help keep costs down whilst delivering a good customer and employee experience are more likely to weather the storm than those who don’t."

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