Could do better – UK clothing, footwear sales disappoint in May and e-tail growth slows too

There was discouraging news mixed in with some better news in the latest UK retail sales figures for May on Thursday. The overall picture may have been of improving growth but for clothing and footwear stores, as well as e-tailers, that picture was not so hot.

And April doesn’t look as good as it did at first either with figures for that month having been revised downwards.

But let’s look at May first. A sales increase of just 0.8% in clothing and footwear stores was the lowest year-on-year increase since records began in January 2008, according to the Office of National Statistics numbers on Thursday.

And although online sales rose 7.4% year-on-year in May, that was the lowest on-year increase since November 2012. Web sales fell 2.1% month-on-month too, now accounting for 12% of all retail sales compared with 11.5% in May 2014.

With the industry used to much bigger e-tail sales growth, the slowdown could take some time to adjust to.

The wider picture may have been brighter (UK volume retail sales in May jumped 4.6% year-on-year, continuing a sustained period of year-on-year growth), but sales rose a more modest 0.2% compared to April.

Even worse, that month-on-month slowdown was due to a strong dip in sales of clothing and footwear. They may have grown year-on-year in May but compared to the previous month, they were down as a spell of colder weather put consumers off buying all those shorts, T-shirts, bikini and summer dresses the shops were full of.

Want some more less-than-encouraging news? Clothing stores had benefited from a warm April, but revisions to official data showed they had less of a bumper month than previously believed.

Meanwhile, average store prices fell 2.7% year-on-year in May, the 11th consecutive month of on-year price falls, albeit boosted by a 10.2% decline in petrol station prices.

The amount spent in the retail industry increased 1.8% year-on-year and by 0.2% month-on-month to£28.3bn and the average weekly spend in the retail industry was £7.1bn compared with £6.9bn a year ago.

In May, for every pound spent in the retail industry, 41 pence was spent in food stores, 42 pence in non-food stores, and seven pence in non-store retailing.

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