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Less than 11pc of Irish retail sales in January were made online

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Online sales accounted for less than 11pc of overall retail transactions with Irish businesses in January, despite the majority of retailers being closed.

All non-essential shops in Ireland have had to temporarily pull down the shutters of their physical stores since December 31 under Level 5 restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19.

The percentage of turnover generated by online sales for Irish shops was just 10.9pc in January, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Many Irish retailers are continuing to struggle to generate an online presence.

In April last year, turnover generated by online sales for Irish shops was 15.3pc, despite overall retail sales – excluding motor – falling by almost 25pc during what the early days of the first lockdown.

Duncan Graham, managing director of lobby group Retail Excellence said there are still a lot of shops, many of whom are small businesses, that are not online.

A lack of new-season products coming through in January – due to Brexit delays – will also have affected sales, according to Mr Graham.

He described the latest numbers from the CSO as “shocking but not surprising for anyone in retail,” and warned that there will be “another poor set in February”.

There was “zero in the Government announcement last Tuesday to give hope to retailers”, Mr Graham said.

Overall, retail sales fell 14pc in January compared to the same month in 2020.

The volume of retail sales decreased by 21.8pc in January when compared to December 2020 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

When motor sales are excluded, the volume of retail sales decreased by 16.3pc in January this year over the previous month and decreased by 9.8pc when compared with January 2020, according to the CSO.

Unsurprisingly, when compared with January 2020, the volume of retail sales in bars was considerably lower – down 91pc.

Sales were down 68pc year-on-year in clothing, footwear and textiles.

Books, newspapers and stationery was down 53pc year-on-year in January.

Other categories where there were big year-on-year sales drops include departments stores (down 39pc), furniture and lighting (down 38.5pc), fuel (down 25pc) and motor sales, which were down 19.6pc.

However, the volume of retail sales was higher in January 2021 compared to the same period of last year in food, beverages and tobacco (specialised stores), where there was 17pc increase in volume.

Electrical good were up 10pc year-on-year, while hardware, paints and glass sales were up just under 2pc, according to the CSO.

Excluding motor trades, the value of retail sales decreased by 15pc in the month and fell by 14pc on an annual basis.

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“The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed had a significant impact on the retail sector in 2020,” said CSO statistician Stephanie Kelleher.

April last year saw the highest seasonally adjusted monthly decrease in retail sales, including motor, (down 35.7pc) related to the first lockdown, she said.

This was followed by a sharp recovery in May 2020 (+32.8pc) and June 2020 (+41.4pc) as the country reopened.

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