RETAILERS enjoyed their best Christmas in five years, while the shopping sector finally returned to growth during 2013.
New Central Statistics Office figures show a positive end to the year for retailers. Despite warnings about poor pre-Christmas trade, the December figures show a 3pc increase in the volume of purchases compared to Christmas 2012.
However, despite the increase in volume, it resulted in a more modest 1.1pc increase in the value of these purchases.
Retail Excellence Ireland chief executive David Fitzsimons said the figures indicated that the winter sales period had compensated for a weaker period pre-Christmas.
"Sales have clearly been stronger than anecdotal evidence of mixed Christmas trading had suggested," he said.
Books and newspapers, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and furniture all saw the biggest monthly lifts, though clothes, shoes and fuel all took a bit of a dip.
And for 2013 as a whole, the volume of sales rose by 0.7pc after two years of decline, though continued price-cutting meant their value fell by 0.2pc.
When car sales are stripped out of the equation, it was the first time since 2007 that there was an increase in retail sales.
Sales had also increased throughout the year, after retail sales fell in the first three months of 2013 but increased in the following three quarters.
And there was further evidence of an improving property market, with a 21pc surge in furniture and lighting sales in December compared to a year earlier, while electrical goods were up 6.2pc.
"Although Irish retail sales appear to have found a turning point, it will be some time before many retailers and households can tangibly feel the recovery," said Mr Mac Coille.
Car sales were up 7.6pc in December compared to a year earlier, while fuels sales were up 6.1pc.