Cold snap puts €250m freeze on retail sector
The early cold snap has sent chills through the retail sector, with estimates that the early snows have cost shops €250m in lost business.
Business group IBEC said yesterday that business was not back to levels normally seen this close to Christmas, although customer numbers were picking up again as the thaw sets in.
"Discretionary purchases have been worst hit. Shoppers are buying as many sliced pans as ever, but they're also making do with what's in the store cupboard, and they're not making as many impulse purchases because they're not out and about as much as usual," said Retail Ireland director Torlach Denihan.
Business was down by 25pc to 35pc but, depending on the type and location of retailers, it could be up to 50pc, he said.
A new survey by the AA, meanwhile, found that one in five motorists plans to drive across the Border to do some Christmas shopping this year.
However, Mr Denihan said he did not believe that cross-border shopping was a strong phenomenon this year, as the exchange rates, narrowing price gap between North and South and the high price of petrol all put people off travelling, and this was evident in the reduction in southern number plates seen in Northern Irish carparks.
The fact that the Government did not increase the price of alcohol in this week's Budget was also very welcome as it meant there was no new impetus sending people north, he added.
A survey by TV3's 'Midweek' show last week found a basket of groceries worked out slightly dearer up north once the cost of driving was factored in.
Retail Excellence Ireland said that shoppers did start returning throughout the country yesterday, as there was some relief that the worst of both the weather and the economic bad news was over.
"The Budget was not as harsh as people expected and we expect that from today business will pick up again. People are going stir crazy after being stuck at home for nearly two weeks," said chief executive David Fitzsimons.
"We expect that shops will make up a lot of the losses, though spending will not have time to recover back up to December 2009 levels," he said.
However, growth in the retail sector was expected from the spring, while the fact that UK excise duty will increase in March meant that we could even see cross-border shopping in the opposite direction if alcohol there became more expensive than in the Republic.
Irish Rail said that it had not seen any great swell in the numbers travelling to Dublin on December 8 for a number of years.
"Not all schools close and as shopping facilities across the country improve, there is not the same impetus on people to travel to the capital to shop," a spokesperson said.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce said that footfall was down a third in the capital during the cold spell.