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Retail sales rebounded in May

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Retail sales volumes rose by 2.9% in May 2024, following a fall of 1.8% in April, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Sales volumes rose across most sectors, with clothing retailers and furniture stores recovering following poor weather in April. The amount spent online rose by 5.4% during May 2024, and by 4.1% over the year.

Global commerce platform Shopify has witnessed sales of garden items and water sports equipment experiencing a sharp sales jump, according to its merchant figures. Among the highest trending products were canoes (+592%), fly swatters (+414%), outdoor umbrellas (+399%), pool water slides (+230%) and sunloungers (+115%).

Deann Evans, managing director, EMEA Shopify, commented: “After a slow start to the year, retailers can take comfort in retail sales recovering just in time for summer — a time when major sporting events, from the Euros to the Olympics, will also likely improve the trading environment.

“However, to keep spending going, brands need to be conscious of how they engage with their audiences, with our data revealing more than four in five (82%) UK shoppers would become more loyal to brands if they were offered something — such as high-quality goods or service, promotions, and surprises.”

The latest figures from the ONS also showed there was a 1.0% rise in the three months to May 2024, when compared with the three months to February 2024.

Jacqui Baker, head of retail at RSM UK and chair of ICAEW’s Retail Group, added“Retailers will be pleased to see the big gains from the odd sunny day and improvements in the economy have started to filter through to sales. Despite turbulence in sales at the start of the year, volumes were up 1.0% in the three months to May overall. With consumer confidence improving to -14 in June, consumers stocked up on clothing in anticipation of their summer holidays and rumours of a UK heatwave, but confidence to spend on big ticket items remains low.

“While consumers are still conscious of what they’re spending, confidence is improving, with inflation now back at the Bank of England’s 2% target, real wages growing, and interest rate cuts expected soon.”


Read more: Falling furniture and food prices sees inflation reach 2% target in May


Furthermore, clothing retailers witnessed a 5.4% jump in volumes in May and data from Airtime Rewards showed that clothing also saw the biggest increase in spending with average transaction values of £34.35.

Josh Graham, co-founder of Airtime Rewards, noted: “May showers didn’t dampen spending as consumers made the most of the two Bank Holidays.

“With today marking the start of summer, the Euros in full swing, and a packed sporting agenda on the horizon, retailers have every reason to feel optimistic and anticipate a boost in consumer spending. Retaining these customers will be crucial, and it is those retailers which are capable of elevating customer experiences and everyday moments that will emerge as champions in this shifting landscape.”


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