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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Drivers ditch cars to save on fuel

Worst decline in retail sales since 2009 as furniture shops also hit hard

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

DRIVERS are opting to leave their cars at home with sky-high fuel prices contributing to a gloomy retail landscape.

Plummeting fuel and furniture sales contributed to the worst fall in retail sales seen since 2009.

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show retail sales dropped another 3.9pc in April compared with the same month last year -- an annual fall not seen since December 2009. Sales were down 0.8pc month on month.

With petrol above €1.50 a litre and diesel also at record highs, drivers are buying 12pc less fuel than they were a year ago -- backing up an AA survey which found people are thinking twice before making unnecessary journeys.

Economising only goes so far to help, however, as the astronomical prices mean people are still spending almost as much on fuel as they were a year ago.

Sales of big-ticket items have also gone through the floor - furniture sales are down more than 16pc in the year. One of the high-profile casualties has been Reid Furniture, which had nine Irish stores. A message on their website declares: "Reid Furniture is no longer trading in the Republic of Ireland."


When you exclude car sales -- which got an artificial boost from the government scrappage scheme -- April was the 38th consecutive month of declining sales, and they were down 30pc in value since the peak, said David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland.

"The one positive is the modest increase in clothing, footwear and textiles sales in April which can be attributed to the good weather and textile price inflation," he said.

Pharmaceutical sales fell by 7.4pc in the year, which was mainly down to restrictions on the sale of codeine over the counter, said Mr Fitzsimons.

IBEC's Retail Ireland division said the accelerating drop in core sales showed the urgency of reforming or preferably abolishing the Joint Labour Committee system, which had imposed pay increases even though 50,000 retail jobs have already been lost and shops are struggling to remain open.

"It is destroying jobs, is unnecessary because of the national minimum wage and should be abolished," said director Torlach Denihan.

Some sectors such as books, newspapers, hardware and bars saw modest improvements, but were more than offset by falling furniture, food, drink and cigarette sales, said Ulster Bank economist Lynsey Clemenger.

"Any real improvement in consumer spending continues to look some way off," she said.

Irish Independent

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