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Retailers pin hope for sales boost on weather

Retailers are currently doing a 'sun dance' in the hope that a spell of good weather this summer will boost sales at shoe stores, cafes and garden centres.

The sunny spell during March delivered a welcome boost to struggling retailers -- although figures compiled by industry body Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) showed overall sales slumped by 2.5pc during the first three months compared with last year.

The review of retail figures reported the 12th consecutive quarter of sales slumping.

David Fitzsimons, chief executive of REI, warned the "big ticket" sales items such as furniture, flooring and appliances remained in the "greatest distress".

"March 2012 returned to like-for-like growth helped by a spell of good weather," he said, with sales up almost 1pc.

Keith Rogers, head of retail at Ecco Footwear, said March had a difficult start for retailers but finished strongly with high demand for summer footwear due to the rising temperatures.

Depressed

"All footwear retailers are currently doing a sun dance to ensure a good second quarter with strong sandal and other summer product sales before we get to the sale period in June," he said.

Garden centre sales also suffered from a wet, cold start to April.

Fergal Doyle, director of the Aboretum Garden Centre in Co Carlow, said the second quarter of the year is "make or break" for garden centres.

"With a poor and cold April start, we are hoping for a more traditional summer in May and June," Mr Doyle added.

Sales in furniture and flooring dropped by almost 10pc in the first quarter.

"The 2pc VAT increase to 23pc has made retailing difficult and makes it hard to achieve last year's targets," Mr Fitzsimons said.

Blaine Callard, chief executive at furniture and electrical retailers Harvey Norman Ireland, said the sector continued to be "severely depressed and is possibly deteriorating further". He said the average price also continued to fall due to furniture and flooring stores liquidating stock to generate cashflow.

Mr Fitzsimons said constant negative reminders about the household and water charges were also making consumers more wary about spending.

Irish Independent