Early Easter helps to give Irish retail sector a boost
Strong grocery sales helped boost the retail sector in the first three months of the year, but experts have attributed the bounce to the early Easter rather than a sustained recovery.
And they warned April is likely to be weaker than the same month last year, thanks to a "dysfunctional housing market" hindering sales of furniture and flooring in particular, the report commissioned by Retail Excellence Ireland found.
Retail sales increased 4.9pc in the first quarter, compared with the same period in 2015.
David Fitzsimons, Retail Ireland chief executive, suggested the positive bounce may not be sustained. "March was the second most productive month since June 2007, the primary reason being that Easter fell in March as opposed to April last year and this had a particularly positive impact on Grocery for the month," he said.
"Hot beverage sales were also up indicating that people were out and about over the period, but this did not translate into the same uplift in other retail sectors. Whilst many sectors saw some uplift for the quarter the downward trajectory or sectors such as furniture & flooring points to the impact of a dysfunctional and inactive housing market."
Like-for-like sales were up in most categories except health stores, consumer electronics, home appliances, IT and computing, and digital cameras.
Retail Excellence said that fashion is trading well, particularly menswear, but that digital cameras continue to suffer due to mobile phone photography.
"Bar the specialist camera market, digital cameras will be completely extinct by 2020," the industry body said. The news comes as British department stores group BHS collapsed into administration yesterday, putting the 88-year-old retailer in danger of disappearing from the UK high street and placing 11,000 jobs at risk.
The loss-making BHS employs around 8,000 people, while a further 3,000 contractors work with the company's 164 stores.
Going into administration, a form of creditor protection, means it is Britain's most high profile retail casualty since Phones4U in September 2014.