UK retail sales slow in May as shoppers buy fewer clothes

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RETAIL SALES growth slowed sharply last month after strong growth in April, as shoppers bought fewer clothes, official data showed.

Retail sales volumes rose 0.2 per cent in May - broadly in line with economists’ expectations - to show 4.6 per cent growth on the year, the Office for National Statistics said.

Economists had expected retail sales to be flat in May after rising a downwardly revised 0.9 per cent in April, when clothing sales were boosted by unusually warm weather. By contrast, May was cooler than normal.

The ONS said clothing sales were 1.6 per cent down on April’s level, the biggest fall since September 2014. Food stores had a rare good month, with volumes up 0.6 per cent, the biggest increase since December.

Private-sector surveys had given contrasting pictures of the sector in May. The Confederation of British Industry reported the fastest retail sales growth since December, while the British Retail Consortium said sales growth was more modest.

Sales in the three months to May were up 4.5 per cent compared with a year earlier, the slowest year-on-year growth in six months.

In cash terms, sales in the three months to May were just 1.4 per cent higher, the smallest increase in two years, as average selling prices continued to fall compared with 2014.