Retail sales in May registered the sharpest increase year on year since January 2014, spurred by warm weather, The Royal Wedding and strong grocery sales.

UK retail sales rose 4.1% overall in May, up against the three- and 12-month averages of 1.2% and 1.5% respectively and marking the strongest performance in over four years without including Easter distortions.

According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, retail sales increased 2.8% on a like-for-like basis against a decrease of 0.4% the previous year.

Despite this overall strong performance, non-food sales continued to struggle and were down 3% on an in-store basis and 4.1% on a store like-for-like basis.

On a three-month basis, non-food sales declined 1.4% in like-for-like terms and 0.5% overall during the period.

However, May’s non-food sales performance was the strongest month-on-month improvement since January 2016 – which will have been spurred in part by April registering the sharpest decline in retail sales on record.

On a three-month basis, food sales rose 2% and 3.4% in like-for-like and total terms respectively. This was below the 12-month total growth average of 3.6%.

Stores comeback

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Retail sales in May saw their highest growth since January 2014 as better weather and the bank holiday effect led shoppers to buy from garden furniture and summer fashion ranges, recovering some of the ground lost in April.

“Encouragingly, growth was seen across channels as stores made a comeback with their best showing in 16 months.

“The FA Cup Final and Royal Wedding may have got the nation in the mood for celebration, but the day itself was a distraction for shoppers as they stayed at home to watch the festivities; sales also tailed off once the party was over.”

KPMG head of retail Paul Martin added: “Grocery sales once again continued to be strong, boosted by added enthusiasm for picnics and barbecues.

“Elsewhere, appetite for non-food categories, including fashion, also experienced a welcome uplift. That said, the picture was less favourable in the larger discretionary categories such as home improvement and furniture.

“While the month’s figures may paint a rosier picture, there is no room for complacency. The market is increasingly being split into winners and losers, with a number of legacy players continuing to face extremely challenging conditions.”