A SLUMP in retail sales shows that the sector remains "distressed" and thousands of jobs are at risk without government intervention, business lobby groups have warned.
The country's largest retail group, Retail Excellence Ireland, blamed the 1.2pc drop in sales between October and November – revealed in the latest CSO figures – on "aggressive" pre-Budget leaks which had consumers "running scared".
The organisation's CEO David Fitzsimons said: "The kite flying for Budget 2013 did not help retail sales or consumer sentiment and caused many consumers to postpone their spend.
"Some of the commentary was far more aggressive and affected a great number of people," he said, adding that a kinder Budget than expected and a mild festive period contributed to the pre- Christmas consumer bounce.
Mr Fitzsimons welcomed the Government's decision to schedule next year's Budget to October 2013, predicting it would provide retailers a much-needed boost for Christmas 2013.
Meanwhile, business lobby groups such as ISME and Retail Ireland said the slight slump in sales showed that the sector remained "distressed" and warned of the risk of job losses.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed a slight slump between October and November, with dramatic falls in some areas such as electrical goods – down a massive 17.8pc.
With motor figures excluded, the volume of retail sales recorded a monthly decline of 1pc compared to October.
ISME (the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association) warned that thousands of jobs will continue to be at risk unless serious action is taken to address issues impacting on the sector, particularly rising costs to businesses.
ISME CEO Mark Fielding said: "It is high time the Government took the threat to one of the most significant contributors to the economy more seriously."
Retail Ireland said the CSO figures were "disappointing", confirming that the domestic economy remains fragile and warrants focus from Government, particularly in rebuilding consumer confidence.
Overall, the CSO figures reveal a mixed month, with fuel sales also dropping by 3.2pc while furniture and lighting rose 2.7pc and department stores also experienced an increase, up 2.4pc.