Friday 26 May 2017

Death of the shopaholic as female fashion sales plunge

Anne-Marie Walsh

RECESSION-hit Irish women are no longer shopping until they drop.

Sales in women's clothing fared far worse than the rest of the retail industry since the start of the year, new quarterly figures reveal.

Female fashion sales have dropped by 6.5pc in this period, compared to an average fall of 3pc across the entire retail sector. Last month was the 37th consecutive month of plummeting sales across the ailing industry.

Employer group Retail Excellence Ireland, which released the figures, estimates more than 40,000 jobs have been lost in the struggling sector since 2008. And it predicts more will go this year.

Retailer Rosemary Kearns, the owner of 'Tempted' boutiques in Dublin, Drogheda, Wexford and Carlow, said the downturn in women's fashion hit much later than the drop in other sales.

"Menswear hit a low point a good while ago," she told the Irish Independent.

"Men just stopped shopping a lot quicker but women persevered on. They got into a habit during the boom years and it's only really starting to affect them now.

Ms Kearns said this represented a huge change in attitudes compared to the 'spend, spend, spend' mentality of the boom years.

"I think women need to have a reason to spend," she added.

Changes

"They are out there but everything has to be 'so right' before they'll part with money now, and when they buy for a wedding, communion or confirmation, they are saying they want something they'll wear again.

"We're making changes every week, including selling out-of-season pieces and plus-sizes and using Twitter and Facebook to market our products, just to keep ahead of the game.

"We were lucky enough that we only had to lay off one staff member, and we employ 13 people...Now we are talking about how we will get through this month, whereas before we were talking about how we would get through the entire year."

Sales were also bad in the pharmacy industry, which was hit by restrictions on the sale of codeine.

Electrical goods, menswear, and furniture sales have also suffered declines of more than 3pc since January.

Bucking the trend, garden centres enjoyed growth of over 5pc, largely due to the good weather and people replacing plants that died during the big freeze over Christmas.

REI chief executive officer David Fitzsimons said the drop in sales had stabilised late last year. But he said retailers were hit badly again when the Government introduced the universal social charge.

"The fact that sales continue to decline indicates the distressed state of the retail industry," he said.

The group is lobbying the Government to ban upward-only rents, which it claims would lead to the creation of 20,000 jobs.

Irish Independent

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