May: good sales despite topsy-turvy temperatures, says BRC

Last month’s retail sales values were up 1.8% on a like-for-like basis from May 2012, according to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG. On a total basis, sales were up 3.4%.

British Retail Consortium Director General Helen Dickinson said: “Retailers pulled off a good result in May, despite contending with topsy-turvy temperatures and continued economic difficulties.

“The first month since February to be free of Easter timing distortions showed positive total growth in every category and overall growth well above the 12-month average.

“May was a month of two halves for weather, meaning that retailers had to stay one step ahead when planning their promotional activity. The signs are that temporary discounts and offers worked well to tempt shoppers into stores and clear some of the stock that had been slow to sell during the preceding months.

“Retailers read conditions well in May and adapted their offer accordingly. Customers are still price-conscious but responding well to good deals, especially for big-ticket items. But volatile economic conditions mean that this will remain a delicate balancing act for some time to come.”

KPMG Head of Retail David McCorquodale added: “While sales didn’t soar through the roof, this is still a very creditable performance from retailers. Remember, these are ‘back to basics’ sales that haven’t been artificially boosted by one-off factors like Easter or last year’s Jubilee. Promoting the right product at the right price made the difference in May.

“To some extent retailers had their bacon saved by online sales, underlining the growing importance of the digital channel. Online sales growth helped to counter variable performances on the high street as many chose to take advantage of the same promotional offers from their sofas.

“Consumers remain highly sensitive about price and retailers are increasingly using promotional activity to drive footfall or the online equivalent. Just how much margin is being given away to boost sales is yet to be seen in the retailers’ accounts but, on the surface, these promotions seem to be working.”

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