Retail Ireland, the IBEC group that represents the retail sector, today said that new CSO figures for March give cause for concern, as core retail sales excluding cars and bars continue to decline.
Retail Ireland director Torlach Denihan said: "Core retail sales have fallen for the entire first quarter of 2011, having declined for the previous three years.
"There is no evidence of a turnaround yet. All sectors of retail are finding trading conditions difficult, but particular mention must be made of the continuing implosion of the market for furniture, electrical goods and books.
"Retailers are looking towards the Government's forthcoming jobs initiative as a source of hope. Urgent action is needed to preserve the 240,000 jobs in the retail sector, including abolition of Joint Labour Committee (JLC) pay scales for the retail grocery sector, legislation to remove upward-only rent reviews in existing leases and reductions in commercial rates by local authorities.
"Pay rules for the retail grocery sector are destroying jobs and are unnecessary because of the national minimum wage. The ongoing review of these rules must lead to a major overhaul of the current system."