Retail sales volumes and values returned to month-on-month growth in May driven by online and food sales, in which volumes surged almost 20% against last year.

Last month retail sales values and volumes suffered their largest monthly drop in a year. But in May, retail sales volumes increased 2.1% and retail values grew 2.1% against April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

May also recorded year-on-year growth as retail sales volumes increased 1.9% and retail sales values jumped 3.1%, the highest spend on record as online volumes grew 19.1%.

Average weekly spending online in May was £582m, an increase of 10.3% against May last year. The amount spent online accounted for 9.7% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel.

The ONS said: “As expected, more was spent online in the non-store retailing sector than any other sector. Spending online now accounts for 66.4% of total spending in this sector. In the food sector 3.4% of spending was online. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spending in relation to all spending.”

The biggest upwards pressure on retail volumes was helped by sales across the non-food sector where the volume of goods bought increased 2.2%.

The food sector pushed up retail sales values in May where the amount spent increased 3.4%.

UK head of retail at KPMG David McCorquodale said: “This is a solid performance by UK retailers and this increase in consumer spending gives us hope that the UK economy might be finally turning the corner.

“However, promotions were used to drive these sales, especially in the food sector, and this decision to discount will have eaten into retailers’ margins.”

He added: “Elsewhere online sales proved a saving grace and offset weaker sales on the high street.  Online and digital have proved to be an essential weapon in a retailer’s arsenal, and will continue to grow in importance as consumers increasingly use more and more technology in their day to day lives.”

British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson added: “Optimism is gradually returning and the ONS have confirmed the good sales trend we saw in the BRC figures earlier this month.

“UK retailers have had to work hard to respond to the volatile weather and economic challenges, but the signs are that their promotional activity has been paying off. Customers remain price-conscious, but have been responding well to the good deals that are available.”