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Fashion sales shrink 8% in May

The value of retail sales in May fell 1.1% compared with last May, and textiles, clothing and footwear was the worst performing category, down 8.4%, according to the Office of National Statistics.

The volume of retail sales fell 1.6% in May year-on-year, with non-food stores recording a 3% drop.

However, for the three months to May, retail sales volumes rose 0.6% but the textile, clothing and footwear category outperformed the general trend, with sales volumes up 7.1% against the same period last year. Non-food store sales volumes increase 0.3% overall.

“There is a sense from some quarters that customers are readying themselves for recovery but, until worries about job prospects and personal finances lift, that will not filter through to a significant improvement in spending.”

Stephen Robertson, director general, British Retail Consortium

Sales volume in the three months March to May increased by 0.3%, compared to the previous three month period. Sales volumes at mainly non-food stores decreased by 0.4%.

Barclays Commercial Bank head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “Retail sales are in a holding pattern. With a slight fall in May and growth in the past three months compared to a year earlier continuing to slow, expectations of a positive increase this month have not been met. However, looking at the numbers over the past nine months, evidence suggests that retail sales numbers are moving sideways.”

“Sterling’s continued recovery against the US dollar and the euro sheds a welcome light on the sector for all those who have budgeted to operate beneath the current exchange levels. There are encouraging signs that this will keep having a positive effect later into the year and will ease many concerns of operating under over-cautious expectations.”

He added that the need for aggressive marketing discounting post-Christmas Sales would not be needed in the summer: “A re-invigorated supply chain has not meant that retailers are losing track of the need to follow lessons learned in recent months and stock levels remain well controlled.”

Deloitte’s UK head of retail Tarlok Teji added: “Today’s figures from the ONS showing a slight drop in retail sales in May compared to April are no surprise given the boost to retail sales seen last month.  These figures demonstrate 2009 will continue to be a challenging year.”

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