Good weather and multiple bank holidays throughout May led to improved retail sales last month.
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According to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium/ KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for May, UK retail sales increased by 2.8% on a like-for-like basis from May 2017, when they had decreased 0.4% from the preceding year.
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On a total basis, sales increased by 4.1% in May, compared to an increased of 0.2% in May 2017.
This is above the 3-month and 12-month averages of 1.2% and 1.5% respectively, and the highest increase since January 2014, not including Easter distortions.
Over the three months to May, In-store sales of non-food items declined 3.0% on a total basis and 4.1% on a like-for-like basis. On a 12-month basis, the total decline was 0.2%, however on a monthly-basis, it was the best performance since January 2016, excluding Easter distortions.
During the same period, food sales increased by 2.0% on a like-for-like basis and a 3.4% on a total basis. This is below the 12-month total average growth of 3.6%, showing that the growth has peaked, since inflation started to recede.
On a monthly basis, this was the best performance since July 2013, excluding Easter’s impacts.
However, during the same timeframe, non-food retail sales in the UK decreased by 1.4% on a like-for-like basis and 0.5% on a total basis. This is below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.2%.
Online sales of non-food products grew by 11.9% in May, against a growth of 4.3% in May 2017. This is above the 3-month and 12-month averages of 8.8% and 8.1% respectively.
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Retail sales in May saw their highest growth since January 2014 as better weather and the bank holiday effect led shoppers to buy from garden furniture and summer fashion ranges; recovering some of the ground lost in April. Food sales also stood out with the best single month’s performance since July 2013. Encouragingly, growth was seen across channels as stores made a comeback with their best showing in 16 months.
“The FA Cup Final and Royal Wedding may have got the nation in the mood for celebration but the day itself was a distraction for shoppers as they stayed at home to watch the festivities; sales also tailed off once the party was over.
“Despite this more positive set of sales results, the retail environment remains extremely challenging, with trend growth still very low by historical standards. Retailers remain focused on investing in new and exciting shopping experiences for the future as margins remain tight and the competition fierce.”
KPMG head of retail Paul Martin said: “May provided a much needed uplift to retail performance delivering a respectable 4.1% growth. Two bank holiday weekends, a Royal wedding and of course sunnier spells will have been the main drivers behind the apparent rebound, with both online and high street sales thankfully up overall.
“Grocery sales once again continued to be strong, boosted by added enthusiasm for picnics and barbeques. Elsewhere, appetite for non-food categories, including fashion, also experienced a welcome uplift. That said, the picture was less favourable in the larger discretionary categories such as home improvement and furniture.
“While the month’s figures may paint a rosier picture, there is no room for complacency. The market is increasingly being split into winners and losers, with a number of legacy players continuing to face extremely challenging conditions. As such, focusing on transforming businesses both operationally and financially is pivotal.”