Slow food sales dragged down the overall performance of retail sales in May, but growth in non-food is accelerating.
According to new figures from BRC-KPMG, overall UK retail sales were up 0.5% on a like-for-like basis from May 2013, when they had increased 1.8% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 2.0%, against a 3.4% rise last May.
Clothing was the best-performing category, reporting its highest growth since December 2011, but food was the lowest, showing a decline.
For non-food overall, the three-month average year-on-year change was 4.3%, ahead of the 12-month trend of 3.8%. And online sales of non-food grew 17.0% in May over a year earlier: the penetration rate was 18.7% in May, the second highest recorded after last November.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "The recovery is gaining pace in the retail sector, but the latest figures reveal the scale of the paradox that has emerged. While non-food retailers are seeing steady sales growth, the grocers appear locked in a race to the bottom, imposing price cut after price cut to maintain their sales volumes.
"With Easter distortions now behind us, the non-food sector is showing encouraging signs of growth, with total sales growing by more than 4% over the last quarter. Clothing and footwear led the charge, although furniture and flooring sales are also encouragingly higher than inflation for the quarter.
"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 at home and abroad."