Retail spending slump is 'worst in memory'
RETAIL sales fell by 14pc last year, making it the worst year "in living memory" for shopkeepers.
But analysts found some glimmers of hope in the latest retail figures with sales increasing marginally in December in 10 out of 13 categories.
However, food sales, our main weekly expense, continue to plummet. IBEC's Retail Ireland called for government help "in every possible way" to ease pressure on retailers by reducing costs for rents, payroll and government charges.
Latest Central Statistics Office figures show that overall retail sales fell by 7.5pc in December 2009 compared to December 2008 although prices fell even more sharply, meaning the value of these sales fell by 12.5pc. And total sales for the full year were down 14.1pc in volume and 18pc in value although there was a 0.4pc pick-up in December.
"Unfortunately 2009 finished on a very difficult note for the retail sector, and it is clearly the worst year experienced by the sector in living memory. Pressure on margins grew in intensity as the year progressed," said IBEC director Torlach Denihan.
The figures show that car sales were worst hit during 2009, falling by 15pc, although they did start to recover after a disastrous start.
Food sales were down 3.7pc in volume, but price slashing by supermarkets meant they fell 9.5pc in value. However, overall sales picked up by 0.4pc in December compared to November 2009 with department stores seeing a much-needed 8.9pc boost after a disastrous year which saw their turnover fall by 14.6pc.
Ulster Bank said that while the overall sales figures were disappointing there were signs of stability with improved sales across a number of sectors.
But with jobs and disposable incomes set to fall further in coming months, Ulster Bank economist Lynsey Clemenger predicted that consumer spending would fall by another 1pc this year -- although that would be a lot less than last year's 7.5pc drop.
Sinn Fein's enterprise spokesman Arthur Morgan said the Government was failing to create jobs that would put money in people's pockets and stimulate spending, and were instead cutting social welfare and pay for low-earners.
Meanwhile, a new survey reveals that the Budget has not stemmed the flow of shoppers heading across the border or encouraged people to spend more. Just 3pc of shoppers said they were less likely to shop in the North since the Budget.