Sunshine sees sales on summer dresses and garden items hotting up

Now it’s TO HOT to beat inflation! Sunshine sees sales of summer dresses, plants and garden items heat-up the economy

  • The heatwave and extra bank holiday saw an unexpected uptick in sales in May
  • Garden centres and DIY shops as the weather drove a home improvement boom 

The recent heatwave spread a little sunshine on the retail sector as it drove up sales of summer dresses, plants and garden items.

The net effect of the warm temperatures, combined with an extra bank holiday due to the Coronation, saw an unexpected 0.3 per cent rise in sales last month.

Spending on filling up the car also rose, which is thought to reflect the fact more people took trips and days out.

The figures were reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), whose 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.

‘Garden centres and DIY stores also saw growth, as the weather encouraged people to start home and garden improvements.’

An uptick in demand for summer dresses saw an unexpected 0.3 per cent uptick in sales in May (File photo: A woman wearing a summer dress on the beach)

However, she stressed that increases in these areas were offset by a fall in food sales against the background of soaring prices, with survey evidence that some people are being forced to skip meals.

According to one ONS statistic, 0.3 per cent less food was bought in May compared with the same month in the pre-pandemic times of 2019 – but it cost 20 per cent more.

Jacqueline Windsor, head of retail at accounting giant PwC, said: ‘We now know from the inflation numbers announced earlier this week that shoppers are continuing to get less for the money they are spending. 

May’s retail sales numbers suggest that the UK consumer is far from out of the woods yet. 

This week’s Bank of England interest rates rise is explicitly aimed at putting the brakes on the economy, with the base rate rising from 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent – the highest level in 15 years.’

Garden centres and DIY stores showed growth as the warm weather bolstered sales (File photo: A domestic garden in Britain)

She said that mortgage holders ‘are likely to feel the brunt of the pain’ in coming months, adding: ‘It’s almost inevitable that consumers will rein in their discretionary spending over the rest of the year.’

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said May’s three bank holidays gave retailers a ‘needed boost’. 

She added: ‘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.’

But she warned: ‘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.

‘Whatever happens, it will continue to be a challenging few months for retailers and their customers.

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