Business Irish

Friday 15 February 2019

Retail sales volumes rise slightly in December as November's discount days pose challenge

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Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Retail sales volumes excluding the motor trade rose 0.7pc in the month of December, according to new CSO statistics.

Sales volumes were up 5.1pc on the same month the previous year, also excluding the motor trade.

The sales data have been volatile in recent times but have generally indicated an improving consumer appetite for spending.

The rise of November discount days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have also posed retailers a challenge, as consumer spending habits are changing, with consumers bringing pre-Christmas spending forward by weeks. For example. the latest figures show department store sales volumes fell 7.3pc in December compared to the prior month.

Hardware, paints and glass rose 3.9pc, while food, beverages and tobacco rose 3.7pc.

“Even with the fluctuation in consumer sentiment, overall personal spending has been positive in the past few years, boosted by the increase in the numbers employed in the country. This is despite the fact that the weakness in sterling since the June 2016 Brexit referendum has enticed some shoppers to spend in Northern Ireland,” Merrion Capital economist Alan McQuaid said.

“What happens on the currency and Brexit fronts will be important factors in determining overall consumer spending patterns in the Republic over the next twelve to eighteen months, but we are still expecting to see healthy personal consumption in the Irish economy in 2019 as things currently stand.”

The figures that exclude the motor trade are seen as a better barometer of retail sales as cars are a different category of purchase for shoppers.

“We think personal spending will post another positive increase [in 2019] as the unemployment rate continues to drop and disposable incomes rise. However, consumer concerns over a global economic slowdown and “Brexit” should see a lower spending rise of 2pc-3pc for both measures in 2019,” Mr McQuaid added.

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