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Official figures confirm growth for retail, online and off, during May

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Online and offline sales both grew in May, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics confirmed today.

The ONS’ May Retail Sales Bulletin put the average weekly value for online sales at £510.9m, some 21.6% ahead of the same month last year. In all, some 8.8% of retail sales, excluding automotive fuel, were made over the internet.

High street sales grew at a lower rate than online, with retail sales excluding automotive fuel up by 3.9% in value compared to last May but by 3% in volume. Compared to this April, retail sales excluding fuel were up by 0.8% in value and 0.9% in volume.

The British Retail Consortium said the figures confirmed sales growth was significantly stronger in May than April, thanks, it said, to the return of summer weather and the Diamond Jubilee.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The end of weeks of relentless rain and the build-up to the Jubilee gave a useful boost in May but retailers tell us the effect was largely confined to the final week of the month when the sun came out and so did shoppers.

“The seemingly shy sunshine, hardly seen since March, had created pent-up demand for summer goods which was finally unleashed. Modest sales of coats and carpets gave way to much better sales of T-shirts and barbecues as interest finally turned outdoors.

“Retail competition has helped push inflation down to a two and a half-year low, which is a good sign that pressures on household budgets are easing, but incomes are still dropping in real terms and customers’ underlying lack of spending power remains a big problem.”

The ONS retail sales index is calculated from a sample of 5,000 retailers representing approximately 90 per cent of all known retail activity within Great Britain. They include 900 large retailers, businesses with employment of more than 100 or annual turnover greater than £60 million, and a random sample of smaller retailers.

Retailers in the sample provide their total retail sales turnover and total turnover for sales made via the internet for a period that in this bulletin covered April 29 to May 26.

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