Customer Behaviour

UK retail sales partly recovered in May, despite the continuation of coronavirus-related lockdown measures.

The amount of goods sold last month increased by 12%, in comparison with record falls seen in April, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Sales were boosted by a 42% rise at household goods stores, with DIY shops and garden centres reopening.

Non-essential retailers in England and Northern Ireland have also since been allowed to reopen.

Most shops in Scotland are to reopen from 29 June. Non-essential retailers in Wales will be told they can reopen from Monday, the first minister is expected to announce on Friday.

Non-food stores saw the biggest increase in sales last month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, despite May’s rebound, sales overall were still down by 13.1% on February, before the coronavirus lockdown measures were introduced.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, cautioned that the “overall consumer picture remains bleak”.

“May’s recovery in retail sales should not be interpreted as a sign that the economy is embarking on a healthy V-shaped recovery from Covid-19,” he said.

“Retail sales account for only a third of households’ overall spending. Naturally, spending on goods will recover faster than on services, which usually require human contact and remain largely unavailable.”

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