Social charge ruining hope of recovery, warn retailers
THE universal social charge (USC) is crippling consumers and putting off any hope of a domestic recovery, retailers warned yesterday.
Over 400 stores will close this month as the last two weeks have been the toughest in living memory for retailers, said industry body Retail Excellence Ireland (REI).
Last week was the worst in recent years as consumers opened their heavily reduced paypackets, while sales had fallen by 3.7pc in December, making it the 34th consecutive month of decline, said REI chief executive David Fitzsimons.
"People aren't going out and they're not spending. The universal social charge has shook people up and the last two weeks have been abysmal," he said.
High-profile closures already this month included many Celtic Bookmakers outlets, Superquinn's Naas store and Zhivago records in Galway, but there were many other small convenience stores quietly closing their doors after a terrible start to the year, he said.
Their survey of 400 retailers with around 23,000 stores found that ladies' fashion was the worst-hit sector with an 8.6pc drop in business in the final quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.
Homeware and gifts saw a 6.2pc drop, while pharmacy sales were down 4.7pc, menswear 3.3pc, jewellery 3.1pc and grocery 2.7pc.
Shoes were the only growth area with sales up 3.2pc -- a fact attributed to the bad weather as consumers rushed to buy footwear to cope with the snow.