Irish retailers braced for best Christmas trading since 2008
It's set to be the best Christmas since 2008 for retailers in Ireland, with hopes that after years of austerity, consumers are ready to freely fritter away their cash during the festive season.
For many retailers, it's the lifeblood of their very existence. Jewellers, for example, typically generate well over 50pc of their annual sales over Christmas. For others too, the season is make or break time, accounting for 30pc of yearly sales in many other categories.
The most recent retail sales data from the CSO shows that the volume of retail sales, excluding vehicles, rose 0.7pc in September compared to August and that the figure was up 8pc on an annualised basis.
The index for the volume of retail sales stood at 108.2 in September. The base year is 2005, when the index was set at 100.
Retail Ireland - a branch of business group IBEC - expects core retail spending in December to hit €4.05bn this year. That's 3.5pc more than during the period last year.
Modest tax cuts, coupled with a weak euro that's luring more tourists, are among the drivers of the increased spend. And with more people now at work, it also means there's more cash to go around.
And new research from Barlcays confirms that retailers are hoping for an uplift.
Its annual survey in advance of Christmas shows that 80pc of Irish retailers believe their revenues will grow over the period. That compares with just 28pc who were confident of an increase back in 2013 and 60pc last year.
And 67pc of the retailers surveyed expect consumers to be spending more in the run up to Christmas.
The trend towards online purchasing also continues, with 47pc of Irish retailers expecting sales made over mobile devices to rise this year, and by as much as 45pc.
Helen Kelly, the head of client coverage at Barclays Bank Ireland, said the sustained economic recovery combined with a migration to online shopping means retailers are presented with a "significant opportunity" this Christmas to tap into a growing market by ensuring their online presence matches in-store promotional efforts.
The Barclays survey found that for the first time in three years, sales of clothing, footwear and accessories will see the most growth this Christmas, followed by electrical goods, health and beauty products, and then luxury items. But 63pc of retailers expect practical presents to remain the most popular present choice.
The increase in clothing and footwear sales over Christmas might be especially welcome as it's quite possible that the unseasonably warm weather over the past few weeks will have dented autumn fashion sales.
And what keeps retailers up at night over Christmas besides the fear that consumers simply won't spend? IT systems.
Of those surveyed by Barclays, 30pc said that a possible IT failure is one of the single biggest threats to successful Christmas trading, beaten only by stress over logistics.
The recent Retail Ireland survey reported that personal consumption on core retail goods during December will be equivalent to just under €2,500 per household. That's about €600 more per household than in any other month of the year.
And love it or loathe it, the US phenomenon of 'Black Friday' is increasingly important here too. Nearly three-quarters of Irish retailers plan holding day-long promotions on November 27. Top kids' picks for this Christmas include Star Wars, Disney and Lego toys.