UK retail sales recover in May, helped by housing market

[LONDON] British retail sales rose in May compared with the same month last year, helped by a recovery in the property market but still disappointing some retailers, an industry survey showed on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium said the value of total retail sales increased by 1.1 per cent, after a 1.3 per cent fall in April when the year-on-year comparison was hit by the early timing of Easter.

The BRC said furniture sales were the strongest since July of last year, excluding distortions caused by the timing of Easter. The increase reflected a recent pick-up in Britain's housing market which last year lost some of its steam, it said.

Clothing and footwear sales fell by the most since September, hit by cool weather last month and by a surge in sales in May last year.

Food sales stabilised after a weak six months.

British consumers have helped to power the country's economic recovery for the last two years and their spending is likely to continue with inflation around zero and wages slowly recovering from a long period of weakness. "With Easter distortions behind us, May's retail sales figures were disappointingly flat," David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountancy firm KPMG, which sponsors the survey.

On a so-called like-for-like basis - a measure which strips out changes in floor space and is favoured by equity analysts - retail spending was unchanged in May, compared with a 2.4 per cent annual fall in April.

A separate survey of Britain's retailers published in late May the Confederation of British Industry showed sales surged last month.


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