British retail sales jumped for a second month in a row in May as a royal wedding and warm weather helped shoppers put a winter slump further behind them, according to data that showed much stronger spending than expected.
Thursday’s figures pushed up the value of sterling as investors took them as a sign that the economy was recovering from a sharp slowdown in the wintry start to 2018 which put the Bank of England off an interest rate hike.
The data also showed strong growth in online spending, which has forced many traditional retail firms to close stores.
Overall sales volumes rose by more than all forecasts by economists in a Reuters poll, jumping by 1.3 percent in monthly terms and following an upwardly revised 1.8 percent bounce-back in April, the Office for National Statistics said.
Supermarkets and other retailers said shoppers spent more on food and household goods before the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the middle of the month, the ONS said.
In the three months to May, sales rose by 0.9 percent compared with a 0.2 increase in the three months to April, a period which included heavy snowstorms and unusually cold temperatures, the ONS said.
Compared with a year earlier, sales volumes were up 3.9 percent, the biggest rise in more than a year and again above all forecasts in the Reuters poll.
Last week, figures from British Retail Consortium and Barclaycard suggested sales in May rose sharply.
The ONS said the amount of money spent on online shopping jumped by nearly 20 percent in May compared with the same month a year earlier, accounting for 18 percent of all retailing, excluding fuel, almost double its share of six years ago.