British retail sales increased for the sixth straight month in May, but at a slower pace than in April, according to the latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The survey of 136 firms showed that grocers, furniture & carpets, clothing and chemists saw sales volumes rise, whereas department stores’ sales declined on a year ago.

During the period, internet retail sales also rose robustly, but at the slowest pace since June 2013.

Many sub-sectors saw strong sales performance: furniture & carpets (+60%), and footwear & leather (+61%), saw strong sales performance among others, while hardware & DIY (+33%), chemists (+19%) and grocers (+33%) also witnessed growth.

In contrast, non-specialised stores (i.e. department stores) (-48%), recreational goods retailers (-33%) and specialist food & drink retailers (-42%) witnessed drop in sales volume.

CBI Distributive Trades Survey Panel chair Barry Williams said, "Retailers’ predictions of further sales growth bore fruit this month. Although that growth was at a slower rate than expected, the fact we’ve seen a steady increase for six consecutive months is a sign we’re heading towards sustainable growth and strengthening consumer optimism – and it’s good to hear shopkeepers telling us they expect even stronger figures next month."

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The agency noted that retailers expect a faster rise in sales next month, and also improve their business situation over the coming quarter.