Furniture retail sales down in May; carpets post uptick

Furniture retail sales fell during May on last month but did show an increase against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales decreased 2.3% to £1.27bn from £1.3bn in April. Compared to the previous year, sales rose 4% from £1.22bn.

Floorcovering retail sales rose month-on-month, up by 0.2% to £218.4m from £217.8m. Compared to the same time last year, sales increased by 3.8% from £210.4m.

Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 0.2% over the month. Household goods stores reported a monthly rise in sales volumes of 1.5% because of strong sales in DIY stores who reported that good weather boosted sales.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in May fell by 2.1%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 4.8% to £39.3bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were up 0.3%, with the value spent also up by 0.6%.

Online spending values rose by 2.5% in May 2023 because of monthly increases across all store types except other non-food stores. The proportion of online sales rose to 26.5% in May 2023 from 26.0% in April 2023, and has remained broadly consistent at around 26% since May 2022.

Commenting on the retail sales figures for May, ONS senior statistician Heather Bovill said: “Retail sales grew a little in May, with online shops doing particularly well selling outdoor goods and summer clothes, as the sun began to shine. May also saw a return to growth for fuel sales after a dip in April. 

“Garden centres and DIY stores also saw growth, as the good weather encouraged people to start home and garden improvements. These were offset by food sales, which fell back as prices in supermarkets continued to rise, exacerbated by many people ordering takeaways and drinking out more during the extra bank holidays, while jewellery and art also fell back after a strong April.”

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “May’s three bank holidays gave retailers a needed boost as sales growth accelerated to 7.7%. This could be seen for books, and SPF cosmetics in particular, which improved due to the brighter weather at the end of the month and as people prepare for summer getaways. Nonetheless, households continue to feel the pinch from the high cost of living, and are limiting their discretionary spending.

“Yesterday’s interest rates announcement will be disappointing for many, and will further tighten the purse strings of many. However, this effect may be partially offset by the easing of food inflation, which fell for the second month in a row. Whatever happens, it will continue to be a challenging few months for retailers and their customers.”

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