PEOPLE snapping up TVs for the switchover to digital signals created a buying spree for electrical retailers last month.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office show a 25pc jump in sales of electrical goods last month.
Retailers have reported that so many televisions, new digital receivers and aerials were bought that "it was like Christmas sales doubled" in the past few months.
The ending of analogue television transmissions in October meant that anyone with old TV equipment had to replace it to receive Saorview, the new national digital terrestrial television service.
Saorview became the primary source of broadcast television in Ireland following the ending of analogue transmissions on October 24. This helped the volume of overall retail sales to jump by 1.7pc in October – one of the biggest rises so far this year. It was the fourth month in a row that there was a rise in shop sales.
The CSO figures also show a rise in sales of books, newspapers and stationery and fuel. Buying was also brisk in supermarkets and department stores.
But the buying of drinks in bars and furniture and lighting equipment sales were down.
Lobby group for shops, Retail Ireland, welcomed the boost in sales and said there was a recovery, but it was very fragile. Stephen Lynam of the group said: "The huge increase in electrical sales of over one-third was almost certainly driven by the purchase on new television sets in time for the digital switchover. These purchases will not be repeated."
He called for a freeze in excise duties in next Wednesday's Budget to offset last year's rise in the top rate of value added tax (VAT) from 21pc to 23pc. Economist at Merrion Stockbrokers Alan McQuaid said there were no clear signs of a revival in retail spending.
"As things currently stand we now believe personal spending will fall 1pc on average in real terms this year, as against our last published projection of a 2pc decline.
"This should also mean that GDP growth in 2012 will be higher than envisaged before."
He said the upcoming Budget, combined with high unemployment, meant that people would hold back on spending to protect themselves against an income shock.
Goodbody economist Juliet Tennent said that the labour market was key to the outlook for consumer spending. She said that despite the surge in television sales last month, the trend for retail sales over recent months had been improving.
This was in contrast to significant falls in other economies, including Portugal and Spain.
"Stabilisation in the labour market may be the driver of this improvement," she said.