By Daniel Hunter

Official retail figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), confirm that sales growth was significantly stronger in May than April, helped by the return of summer weather later in the month and the run-up to the Diamond Jubilee.

Excluding fuel, the ONS numbers show the total value of sales (not seasonally adjusted) was up 3.8 per cent in May compared with May 2011. In April there was zero growth.

The BRC's own figures, published two weeks ago, showed year-on-year growth of 3.4 per cent for May 2012.

British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said: "The end of weeks of relentless rain and the build-up to the Jubilee gave a useful boost in May but retailers tell us the effect was largely confined to the final week of the month when the sun came out and so did shoppers.

"The seemingly shy sunshine, hardly seen since March, had created pent-up demand for summer goods which was finally unleashed. Modest sales of coats and carpets gave way to much better sales of T-shirts and barbecues as interest finally turned outdoors.

"Retail competition has helped push inflation down to a two and a half-year low, which is a good sign that pressures on household budgets are easing, but incomes are still dropping in real terms and customers' underlying lack of spending power remains a big problem."

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