Clothing underpinned retail sales in May, resulting in a 0.5% like-for-like uptick on a year earlier, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed.

Clothing underpinned sales in May, resulting in a 0.5% like-for-like uptick on a year earlier, according to the BRC KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Food ↓

Food and drinks turned downwards in May both in like-for-like and total terms. Despite controversy over price cuts versus price increases on grocery lines, the figures showed that more affordable products generated much higher sales volumes, creating overall downwards price pressure. The fact that Easter was late probably starved May of some sales over the first Bank Holiday weekend, however there was little sign of revival during the second one either.

May was a sporting month, packed with football and rugby finals, which helped sales of shared snacks and meals, while the warm weather stimulated sales of fruits and vegetables. Adjusted for food inflation, the three-month average change for food was -0.9% in May against -0.4% for the 12-month average, in contrast to growth innon-food.

The trends confirm a polarisation between food and non-food – and more generally between “essentials” and “treats” – with the latter clearly outperforming the former in a reverse of the polarisation experienced during the recession.

Clothing ↑

Clothing was the best-performing category in May. The warmer weather induced a step-change in the shopping mood, with all segments performing well, led by the largest, womenswear. Casual jersey and printed trousers did well, together with branded fashion.

Summer accessories such as sunglasses sparked strong demand and World Cup-themed ranges in the run-up to Father’s Day boosted the men’s segment.In addition to summer ranges, schoolwear also sold well. May’s performance was flattered by soft comparables in 2013 once adjusted for the extra week this year.

Footwear ↑

Footwear was the second-best performing category last month for the same reasons as clothing, including a soft comparable period and relatively favourable weather. Seasonal ranges sold well across all segments, including wedges, flip-flops, sandals and canvasses.

Health and Beauty ↑

Health and beauty performed relatively well in May but retailers commented that some categories did better than others.

For example, deodorant sales were helped by the warm weather while cosmetics suffered from it. Fragrances saw some successful launches, while “healthy lifestyle” and vitamins continued to enjoy strong demand.

Baby formulas saw good growth thanks to depressed sales last year after the panic buy of April 2013.

Furniture and flooring ↑

Furniture continued to enjoy a pick-up last month. Retailers reported living and dining pieces sold well.

Home accessories ↑

Home accessories ranked just behind the fashion categories overall. Lighting was cited as a very good performer. House textiles also posted another good performance, with increased demand for lightweight duvets in the warmer weather.

Other non-food ↑

The other non-food category performed well in May, although all growth came from online.

Electrical and electronic sales continued to be driven by the boost in television sales in the run-up to the World Cup. Vacuum cleaners sold well over the Bank holiday weekends. Gaming continued to perform well, helped by the Watch Dogs launch in the last week of the month. World Cup collectibles and sticker magazines also experienced good demand.

Outdoor games sold strongly while toys weaving colourful bracelets out of rubber bands are becoming a blockbuster. Garden power tools, barbeques and outdoor furniture sold well mid-month as the sun came out and in preparation for the last bank holiday weekend.

The weather was also favourable to shopping in department stores as the showers drove customers into sheltered environments and the sunny intervals provided a prelude to the summer holidays and customers looking for shopping inspiration.

Online ↑

Non-food online sales recorded their highest growth since January, at 17%. Aside from last November, online also represented the greatest proportion of non-food sales recorded by the Monitor, at 18.7%. However, the performance was somewhat flattered by a relatively soft comparable period in May 2013.

Over the last three months, online has represented one third of the total non-food growth.