Furniture retail sales bounce back in May; flooring also rises

Furniture retail sales increased during May on last month but were down against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales rose 3.5% to £1.16bn from £1.12bn in April. Compared to the previous year, sales were down 7.2% from £1.25bn.

Floorcovering retail sales increased month-on-month, up by 4.7% to £219.7m from £209.7m. Compared to the same time last year, sales also rose by 1.3% from £216.7m.

Retail sales volumes (quantity bought) rose by 2.9% in May 2024, following a fall of 1.8% in April 2024 (revised from a fall of 2.3%). Sales volumes rose across most sectors, with clothing retailers and furniture stores rebounding following poor weather in April.

More broadly, sales volumes rose by 1.0% in the three months to May 2024 when compared with the previous three months. However, they fell by 0.2% when compared with the three months to May 2023. As for the value (amount spent), this was up 6.6% month-on-month to £40.2bn.

Non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household, and other non-food stores) rose by 3.5% in May 2024. This was the largest monthly rise since April 2021, and follows a fall of 3.0% in April 2024. Within non-food stores, there was strong monthly growth for clothing and footwear retailers, furniture stores, and sports equipment, games and toys stores. These retailers reported improved footfall, better weather, and the impact of promotions.

The amount spent online, known as online spending values, rose by 5.4% during May 2024, and by 4.1% over the year. Total spend (the sum of in-store and online sales) showed a smaller 3.3% rise during the month, resulting in the proportion of sales made online increasing from 26.7% in April 2024 (revised from 26.5%) to 27.2% in May 2024.

Commenting on the figures, Kris Hamer, Director of Insight at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The record warmth of May led to a small recovery in retail sales for the month. Larger retailers outperformed small retailers, with clothing and footwear particularly benefitting from the change in temperatures. Nonetheless, sales volumes still remain below their 2021 levels. Retailers hope that the recent start of Euro 2024 should further improve spending in snacks, alcohol, and TVs for June’s figures – and if England can win their final game and move forward to Round of 16 , it might give consumer confidence the boost it needs.

“With the election less than two weeks away, retailers look forward to working with the next government to understand how they can support an industry that unlocks over £460bn in consumer spending a year. Including the retail supply chain, the industry supports jobs for almost 20% of the workforce, meaning that improving consumer confidence and unlocking consumer spending is vital for jobs and investment right across the UK.”

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