Unsettled weather dampened retail sales last month as consumers started to recover their appetites for grocery shopping but left summer clothes on the shelf, figures showed today.
Like-for-like sales in May were flat on the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG retail sales monitor.
The survey found that the performance of food was "beginning to normalise after a period of intense competition and decline". The major supermarkets are in a price war as they try to fend off the threat of discounters Aldi and Lidl.
But clothing saw its deepest decline since September, with retailers blaming unsettled weather for dampening demand for spring/summer lines.
Meanwhile furniture and home ware picked up after a conclusive result in the general election - rather than a period of uncertainty and political horse-trading - appeared to lift the housing market.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said May witnessed a slow-down in sales growth, mainly due to fashion sales, but said the strong performance of fashion was "an indication of continuing consumer confidence".
Like-for-like sales over the three-month March-May period were ahead by 0.5%, with a 2.1% rise for non-food and a 1.4% decline for food - though the latter was a slight improvement on the February- April reading.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said the retail sales figures were "disappointingly flat".
He added that the slight improvement for food "continues in the eye of a price deflation storm which continues to benefit the consumer".
"Looking ahead, June may be a tough month of comparables for some with the start of the 2014 World Cup in June last year boosting sales in certain areas," he said.
"However, with consumer confidence nearing pre-crisis positivity, retailers will be hoping that the improving job market, low inflation rates along with a dollop of summer sunshine will provide a welcome boost."