Clothing was the best-performing retail category in May with warm weather driving sales, according to the British Retail Consortium/KPMG.
Womenswear led the sector, while food was the worst-performing area.
Overall, retail like-for-likes rose 0.5% in May. In the three months to the end of the month, non-food sales rose 3.2% while food fell 2.2%.
Casual jersey and printed trousers did well, as did branded fashion, according to the BRC/KPMG. Summer accessories like sunglasses were also in demand. The two bodies said promotions seemed to be occurring less frequently.
The run-up to the World Cup has also benefited fashion retailers – particularly in menswear, but also in kids’ and womenswear.
BRC director-general Helen Dickinson said: “Customers took advantage of great summer fashion ranges and clothing sales had their best results since December 2011, performing better than any other category.
“But there is a clear pattern in food sales emerging where customers continue to be discerning in search of value. Supermarkets are providing great-quality food in a very competitive market and this shows in the three-month average food growth, which turned negative for the first time since our records began in 2008, excluding Easter distortions. Let’s hope this rebalancing will eventually be rewarding for retailers.”
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: “With Easter distortions behind us, the non-food sector is showing encouraging signs of growth. Consumer confidence can still be fickle, but the response to targeted campaigns has been positive. Retailers are investing in their businesses and planning for further growth.
“The main barrier to recovery is now the grocers’ battle over price. The deflationary effect of these prolonged discounting campaigns, while good for consumers, is feeding through to grocers’ margins and share values. The constant price matching brings into question the long-term value of grocers’ brands and positioning, but in the short term is providing the UK consumer with plenty of options.”