Australian retailer Harvey Norman has sounded an uncharacteristically upbeat tone about the health of the Irish economy after its operations here recorded a 1.9pc rise in sales to €137.5m for the year to the end of June. On a like-for-like basis, they were 5.5pc higher.
Losses at its stores across the island narrowed to A$30.5m (€20.6m) from $34m. Excluding restructuring costs, the loss for the latest year was $26.8m.
Harvey Norman has 12 stores in Ireland and two in the North. It closed an outlet in Mullingar in August last year and another in Dundalk in June this year.
It said its outlets in the Republic recorded sales increases across all categories during the financial year. It has also opened a new store in Blanchardstown in Dublin.
"We continued to grow market share within Ireland, improve store and operational efficiencies, refine marketing and brand positioning," it said in its annual results issued yesterday.
"This result reflects the ongoing trend within the Irish business of loss reduction and we are confident that trend will continue," it added.
But the results show that even though like-for-like sales at the Irish arm were 10.7pc ahead in the first quarter, they slipped each subsequent quarter. In the third quarter there was a 6.3pc rise in like-for-like sales but there was a 4pc decline in the fourth quarter.
Harvey Norman said the Irish economy was showing early signs of stabilisation and possibly even gentle upturn.
"Unemployment has started to drop, property prices are rising again after five years, and the continued forecast is for modest GDP growth," it said. "The Irish Government . . . has significantly improved the Irish fiscal position, and has stated that only one more difficult Budget remains at the end of 2013."
The financial report also shows that Harvey Norman has a fully drawn $36.4m overdraft due to Bank of Ireland.