Retailers suffer as tax hikes and pay cuts hit spending
JANUARY sales failed to inspire shoppers, with tax hikes and pay cuts being blamed for low consumer spending at the turn of the year.
Figures out yesterday showed disappointing results for retailers from the tills for January, with just minor increases in sales. Retailers say a "cloud" still hangs over consumers and have urged the new government to take action to boost confidence among shoppers.
Results from the Central Statistics Office retail sales index show sales across the board were up 4.6pc in January compared to the same time last year. But, when figures for the motor trade are excluded, there was a 1.2pc drop. There is typically a spike in car sales in January.
There were increases in some other areas such as clothing and footwear, paints and electrical goods. However, most sectors saw a slump.
Department stores were particularly badly hit, with a drop of 9.3pc in year-on-year sales. Furniture and lighting shops showed a decrease of 9.6pc in sales. Books, newspapers, tobacco and bars all saw drops, too.
Retail Ireland, which is part of IBEC, said people's incomes were severely down because of the new taxes which were introduced and subsequent decreases in work incomes.
"There is a cloud over consumers. Some people are in a worse-off position than they were 12 months ago," said director Torlach Denihan. "Most people's incomes are down because bonuses are down or commissions are down."
Retail Ireland said the the next government should honour commitments to help small retailers. This was echoed by another representative group, Retail Excellence Ireland.
"The year-on-year decline of over 1pc in retail sales figures for January 2011 is disappointing when you consider that retail sales in January 2010 were badly affected by last year's freezing weather," said its chief executive David Fitzsimons.