Editorial: Any increase in retail sales is a step in the right direction
Published 01/03/2014 | 02:30
HERE is the good news... well, sort of. The 8.9pc year-on-year increase in retail sales announced by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) comes with a heavy health warning, in that when you strip out motor and household goods, the real retail recovery was a more modest 0.7pc for the year.
This indicates that while people are back in the shops, they're likely to be getting heavily discounted goods, as can be seen particularly in the supermarkets, where a lively price war has resulted in consumers getting better value than ever before as the multiples slug it out.
Most experts and commentators believe that positive trends in employment and the property market are not only good for the retail sector, but are also having a positive impact on consumer confidence.
This could help to unlock a vast amount of money that is held in savings and drive growth in the 'real' economy this year.
Indeed, the household savings ratio has fallen to 8.4pc, below the EU average, probably driven by extremely low interest rates and budgetary measures that have made it unattractive to hoard cash.
The 2.3pc increase in retail sales in January 2014 over the same month last year is also heartening for a sector that has been battered by austerity for much of the past five years.
There is a long way to go to restore confidence, but every increase in retail sales is a step in the right direction and needs to be encouraged in every way possible by those who are in positions to do so.