June 7, 2018 / 11:07 PM / a month ago

Spending pinch, royal wedding give UK shops worst May in 12 years - BDO

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers suffered their worst May in 12 years, a survey showed, hit by the distraction of a royal wedding for many shoppers but also underlining the changes in spending patterns that have contributed to a spate of store closures this year.

Harry and Meghan Royal wedding themed Union Flags are sold at at a discount at a souvenir shop in Windsor, Britain, May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Turnover among retailers dropped 2.2 percent year-on-year in May after a 3.8 percent annual drop in April, according to accountancy BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker published on Friday.

Shops were “deserted” for their usually busy Saturday trading on May 19 as Britons opted to stay in to watch the marriage of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, BDO said.

While its report differed with a British Retail Consortium survey this week which showed sales values rose strongly in May, it chimed with other signs that Britain’s retailers are struggling.

On Thursday, House of Fraser said it needed to close 31 stores to survive, in a plan likely to result in as many as 6,000 job losses.

Retailers are shutting shops in the face of competition from online retailers such as Amazon (AMZN.O), a squeeze on consumer budgets and a change in Britons’ spending habits away from fashion and towards holidays and entertainment.

Wage growth has started to outstrip inflation again, easing some of the pinch for households who have been hit by rising prices for much of the period since the June 2016 Brexit vote.

Still, BDO said this had little effect so far.

“The rise in wages and lower inflation has only had a notional impact on the consumer purse. It has been insufficient to ignite much-needed spending on the high street,” Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg

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