Retail sales rose 0.8 per cent year-on-year in May, as a poor performance in non-food dragged figures down.

According to numbers for May from the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Index, UK retail sales values fell 0.8 per cent during the month on a like-for-like basis.

The fall off in sales from April, when total sales grew 6.3 per cent and like-for-likes rose 4.6 per cent, reflects the fall of Easter in April and strong comparatives last year. Clothing and footwear suffered after a strong May 2008, when sales were boosted by sunny weather. Footwear sales showed their worst year-on-year decline since April 2008.

Big-ticket homewares and furniture sales “remained difficult” even against a poor May 2008, according to the survey.

Despite the strong performance by food and drink retailers, sales slowed after a strong April, picking up at the end of May when the hot weather kicked in.

Taking the three-month average up to and including May, like-for-likes grew 0.7 per cent, with non-food sales down 2.4 per cent and food sales up 5.4 per cent. Total sales in the three month period grew 2.4 per cent, with non-food sales down 0.5 per cent and food sales up 6.8 per cent.

Internet, mail order and phone sales in May were 7.6 per cent higher than a year ago.

British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: “The three-month average is up slightly overall but still well down on the rates regularly seen before the slowdown really hit retail a year ago. 

“Negative results show spring has been extremely difficult for most non-food retailers. The turnaround in sales of big-ticket items such as furniture and large electricals, which would indicate real change in the mood of customers, still eludes us.”

KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: “We might have expected better figures as, while there are consumers struggling financially due to actual, or the prospect of, job losses, there are also those with greater disposable income due to lower mortgage payments, easing inflation and lower fuel costs.  It remains to be seen when those who have cash to spare will feel confident to start spending again.”