UK retailers posted a strong sales performance in May, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published yesterday (20 June).

Total sales increased 3.1% for the month, compared to the same period a year ago, despite the poor weather. Volumes increased 1.9%.

According to the ONS, the main source of upwards pressure on sales value came from the food sector, where, compared with May 2012, the amount spent increased by 3.4%.

Helen Dickinson, director general, British Retail Consortium, said: "Optimism is gradually returning and the ONS have confirmed the good sales trend we saw in the BRC figures earlier this month.

"UK retailers have had to work hard to respond to the volatile weather and economic challenges, but the signs are that their promotional activity has been paying off. Customers remain price-conscious, but have been responding well to the good deals that are available."

While Jon Copestake, retail analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said that as food provided some of the strongest growth, the impetus was already being attributed to supermarket discounting. However he said the overall rise is not necessarily good news for the high street. "Online sales grew by 10.3% year on year, while non-store channels including online, market stalls and mail order grew by 19.1%."