Retail Ireland, the IBEC group that represents the retail sector, today said that new CSO retail sales figures for January show a weak start for retailing in 2011.
The group said the political parties that form the new government must follow through on election commitments to support the retail sector, reduce business costs and get people back to work.
Retail Ireland director Torlach Denihan said: "The value of core retail sales (excluding cars and bars) fell year-on-year by 1.5pc in January. The Budget hit pay packets in January and this had a major negative impact on spending towards the end of the month especially.
"Last year was the third year in a row in which the value of core retail sales fell and the cumulative decline is now over 20pc. The sector needs urgent action from the incoming government. While prices have been cut to the bone, the cost of running a shop has not fallen.
"The key challenge facing the incoming government is to restore consumer confidence and boost spending in the economy. To safeguard jobs in the retail sector urgent reform is needed to reduce key business costs, such as rent, labour costs and commercial rates, and improve access to credit.
"Legislation to address unsustainable commercial rents is needed urgently.The next Attorney General should immediately review the issue of upward only rent review clauses, with a view to clearing the way for new legislation to abolish them.
"The rules for setting wages in 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 in the system."