Coldest Spring in 50 Years Fails to Deter UK Shoppers

Paul Thomas | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Despite experiencing the coldest spring in 50 years, U.K. consumers beat the weather by posting a rise in retail sales after recent gloom in the sector, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

U.K. retail sales values were up 1.8 percent on a like-for-like basis compared to May 2012, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), reversing a downtick from last month when an early Easter holiday meant sales values declined.

"Retailers pulled off a good result in May despite contending with topsy-turvy temperatures and continued economic difficulties," Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC said in a press release.

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"The signs are that retailers read conditions well in May and adapted their offer accordingly. Customers are still price-conscious but responding well to good deals, especially for big-ticket items. But volatile economic conditions mean that this will remain a delicate balancing act for some time to come."

The trend in online sales continues to gain pace with online sales up 11 percent in May (year-on-year). In May 2012 they rose by 12.4 percent. Another report published last week by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) predicted that the U.K. would have the highest online retail sales of any country in terms of share by 2018 as a greater number of shoppers shun main street.

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"To some extent retailers had their bacon saved by online sales, underlining the growing importance of the digital channel. Online sales growth helped to counter variable performances on the high street [main street] as many chose to take advantage of the same promotional offers from their sofas," David McCorquodale, head of retail at joint publishes of the report KPMG said.

On a total basis, sales were up 3.4 percent (year-on-year), the same increase posted in May 2012. Furniture and Flooring was the best-performing category for the first time since January 2011.

By's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81.