Sales of home electricals suffered in May

For the second month in a row, UK retail sales declined in May. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that total retail sales in May declined by 1.1 per cent compared to May 2021 – a sharper slowdown than in April, when we saw a fall of 0.3 per cent compared to April 2021.

The BRC’s Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson, said that sales rose sharply last year after pandemic restrictions eased, but that “spending bubble has now burst”.

Sales of bigger ticket items, such as home electricals, suffered last month as shoppers reconsidered major purchases due to the cost-of-living crunch, Ms Dickinson added.

Publishing its latest monthly data, the BRC stipulated that sales figures are not adjusted for inflation, and given this is running at historically high levels, “the small drop in sales masked a much larger drop in volumes once inflation is accounted for”, it said.

UK retail sales decreased by 1.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis between May this year and last year (when they had increased 18.5 per cent). And online non-food sales decreased by 8.5 per cent last month, compared with a similar decline of 8.1 per cent in 2021.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said the figures highlighted that “consumers are becoming more sensitive to the cost of living”.

“Non-food purchases related to the home, such as home appliances, suffered the biggest falls in spending in May. Online, although still significantly higher than before the pandemic, has now experienced a double-digit decline over the last three months.”

Consumer confidence will be a key factor to watch out for, Mr Martin added, and retailers will be hoping that a post-Jubilee and summer feel-good factor begins to improve confidence amongst some shoppers – “as presently overall confidence levels are lower than sales may suggest”.

Julie Abraham, Chief Executive of Richer Sounds, told the BBC: “It’s tough out there for everybody. We’ve seen a definite slowdown and we’re having to work that much harder to give better value than ever.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, she added that shoppers are “far more savvy now” and look around for longer for a bargain.