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Sunny weather boosted May online sales, while Jubilee celebrations could mean a bumper June

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May’s sunny spell helped to boost sales both online and off in May, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium, out today.

And early figures from Venda also suggested that the Jubilee weekend saw a strong rise in online and offline retail sales.

The KPMG-BRC Retail Sales Monitor for May 2012 showed internet sales rose by 12.4% last month. That was up on the 10.4% growth recorded in May 2011.

The update also showed that beyond the internet, sales also staged a recovery. Like-for-like UK retail sales values rose by 1.3% last month. In May 2011 like-for-like sales were down by 2.1%, compared to the same month in the previous year. Total UK sales rose by 3.4%, compared to a 0.3% decline in May 2011.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Online sales have returned to healthier growth after an unusually weak month in April, in part due to the timing of Easter. It’s back in line with the six-month average and higher than the 12-month rolling average.

“The feelgood sunshine boost saw strong sales of summer fashions as well as outdoor leisure and gardening gear. Consumers planning ahead for the Jubilee celebrations and other summer events are also likely to have made earlier purchases online than they would have through traditional channels.

“The sharpest growth continues to come from shopping happening via smartphones and other mobile devices. A number of retailers are encouraging smartphone use in their stores, which is feeding into this trend.”

He said that across UK retail, the previous rainy period had probably helped create pent-up demand, with consumers more relaxed about spending in the sunny weather.

“Small numbers of customers buying jeans and knitwear in the first weeks of May became many more people purchasing skirts, shorts and swimwear by the end of the month,” he said. “Womenswear had its best growth this year, while garden centres enjoyed a boom in the number of people investing in new lawnmowers to tackle overgrown grass.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Retailers are hoping that the Jubilee celebrations will have helped to pull out them of the mire, but a short-term patriotic spending spree will not overcome the underlying difficulties facing the industry – which remains under pressure from a combination of declining consumer confidence and squeezed incomes.

“After a dismal April, May was a much better month and many retailers will be breathing a small sigh of relief. No sector put in a star performance, but a focus on spending on children was evident and childrenswear saw a double-digit uplift in sales.”

Meanwhile, early figures from Venda suggested that online sales rose by more than a third over the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Online sales generated by the 100 brands operating on its ecommerce platform rose by 38 per cent, the company said, while sales values rose by 34%.

The biggest gainers, said Venda, were quintessentially British brands, which saw sales more than double compared to last year’s late Spring Bank-holiday period as consumers sought out patriotic products or souvenirs. It said gifts also performed well compared to last year’s spring bank holiday. Transactions rose by 60% and sales values by 77%. However, home and gardening products only increased sales by 3% despite the extra shopping day and four-day weekend.

Eric Abensur, group chief executive at Venda said: “Anticipations for the Jubilee weekend were high for many retailers. In such a highly competitive retail environment retailers must seize every opportunity to capitalise on occasions where consumers may loosen the purse strings. After fairly dismal figures reported by the ONS and BRC for April, retailers were looking to the long bank holiday for a much needed early June boost.

“Online retail continues to go from strength to strength, securing a greater share of the market month on month. The flexibility and innovation that online and mobile channels allow are now an essential part of how retailers look to match their retail strategy to the needs of the consumer.”

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