The latest official figures show Britons are spending less on food as rising prices force them to cut back on their weekly supermarket.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said smaller grocery bills were the main factor behind a 0.5% drop in retail sales in Great Britain last month.
However, stores and household goods outlets also reported consumers’ reluctance to spend as a result of the higher cost of living.
Britain’s statistics agency said the 1.6% drop in food sales volume appears to be linked to inflation, which was measured by the consumer price index, which reached a 40-year high of 9.1% in May.
Retail sales growth in April was also revised down from the original estimate of 1.4% to 0.4%, while in the three months through May – a better indication of the underlying trend than the one-month figures – spending was down 1.3% from the previous quarter.
The ONS said the drop in retail sales was most pronounced when motorists’ spending on petrol and diesel were excluded. On that basis, retail sales fell 0.7% month over month and 1.5% during the quarter.
“Retail sales fell in May, driven by lower food sales,” said Heather Boville, deputy director of the Office for National Statistics for Economic Surveys and Indicators. Reviews from supermarkets indicate that customers spend less on their food store due to the higher cost of living.
More workers returning to the office may have contributed to fuel sales this month, while shoppers buying clothes for the summer holidays helped boost clothing sales.
“These increases were offset by declines in household goods and department stores, as retailers in these areas reported consumers’ reluctance to spend due to affordability concerns and higher prices.”
Linda Petherick, Accenture’s UK and Ireland retail leader, said the drop in sales would not come as a surprise to the retail sector, which is facing rapidly rising costs and pressure to keep prices low for struggling households.
“Inflation remains a major problem for retail businesses, which have to contend with rising supply chain costs, as well as keep their stores afloat and compensate employees well. For consumers, the rising costs of basic commodities mean that many don’t have extra money to spend. on discretionary items.