The value of retail sales rose by 4.4% in May, with sales volumes ahead 2.2% on last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Sales for food stores grew 1.4% with non-food stores enjoying a 5.4% lift. For online retailers sales were up 12.2% on a year ago.

Commenting on the figures, British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: “Sales revived in May as summer weather arrived and distortions caused by the timing of Easter ended. The sunnier second half of May, combined with discounts and promotions, encouraged spending on clothing, footwear, gardening and outdoor DIY.

“The World Cup helped sales of televisions, though this was largely discount-driven. With the tournament in full swing, there should be further gains for other football merchandise, such as flags and replica kits, which will show up in the June figures.”

Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate said: “Year-on-year the picture may appear more robust due to a comparatively tougher trading period in the first half of 2009. However, with little improvement in sales volumes since the end of last year, maintaining relative growth over the coming months will prove a continuing challenge for the sector.”

He added: “The sector is now entering a more demanding trading period with further headwinds anticipated in the second half of the year from a potential rise  in VAT, inflation the Far East and commodity prices”.

Richard Lloyd-Owen, UK head of consumer business at Deloitte, commented: “Today’s figures from the ONS show retail sales increasing at a faster rate than expected during May. However, retailers will be under no illusions that they face challenging conditions.”