Retailers up in arms as Noonan's scaremongering hits festive sales
FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has been accused of scaring people away from the shops in the run-up to Christmas.
Retailers are furious at Mr Noonan for raising the prospect that Ireland could end up leaving the euro, just as shoppers show tentative signs of loosening their purse strings for the festive season.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland David Fitzsimons appealed to Mr Noonan to be more careful with his words and his timing.
"Michael Noonan was out during the week talking about a referendum on the euro and whether or not we should remain in the euro. It wasn't exactly a great message to be sending in the two weeks running up to Christmas.
"People are already moving their deposits out of euro. So his message doesn't really blend in well with a sentiment to spend," Mr Fitzsimons said.
The call on Mr Noonan to choose his words more carefully comes at a crucial juncture, following as it does 45 consecutive months of falling sales in the retail sector.
Indeed, a survey by Retail Excellence Ireland shows a number of its members are deeply concerned for their future. Mr Fitzsimons said that eight international brands are now actively considering closing outlets in 2012, or pulling out of Ireland altogether due to falling sales and the Government's failure to address the issue of upward-only rent reviews.
But as Ireland's retailers pin their hopes on the traditional last-minute Christmas rush, figures from the CSO and the Central Bank -- coupled with the slavish insistence by the Government on following the orders of the EU and IMF -- would appear to be conspiring against them.
Numbers from the CSO last Friday underlined our economic decline. Gross domestic product (GDP), the most reliable measure of economic activity, registered the most significant decline in two-and-a-half years, down 1.9 per cent on the previous three months. Should GDP decline in the next quarter, we will officially be in recession.
That news comes just two weeks on from the Budget in which Mr Noonan announced his intention to take a further €3.8bn out of the economy.
But it isn't just the Government taking the money from our pockets and from the tills. Figures from the Central Bank show people are paying off personal debts even as they foot the bill for Ireland's bankers and developers.
Total outstanding mortgage debt on Irish residential property for example fell from €126.5bn in May 2008 to €98bn in September this year.