Improved garment sales boosted UK retail figures for May, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday (16 June).

Despite market predictions of a sales slowdown in the run up to the June referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union, shoppers did not hold back as sales volume rose 6% on an annualised basis in May; the biggest annual rise since September 2015.

The ONS also revised April's retail sales growth up to 5.2% from 4.3% reflecting "high amount of data it received late" from stores.

A spokesperson for the statistics body attributed much of May's uptick to a substantial rebound in clothing sales, which rose 4.3% on the month.

On a quarterly basis, looking at retail sales in the three months to May, volumes were up 1.5% on the previous three months; the biggest rise since November 2015. Meanwhile, average prices in shops, including petrol stations, fell by 2.8%.

Earlier in the week, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said he would be forced to raise taxes and cut public spending if the UK voted to leave in order to plug a £30bn hole in the public finances that a Brexit might open up.

However, responding to the retail sales data, Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "Given the importance of consumer spending to the economy, the figures give a major lift to hopes that the UK economy is holding up better in the second quarter than had seemed likely given the mounting uncertainty surrounding the 23 June referendum."