Shops pin hopes on Euros boost
RETAILERS are hoping that tourists and this summer's major sporting events will help to revive dismal sales figures after a winter of low spending at the tills.
The volume of sales decreased by 1.9pc nationwide last month compared with the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The value of the items sold also fell by a similar amount, capping a dire winter period for shops and other retailers.
But they are cautiously optimistic that June's Euro 2012 football championships in Poland and the Ukraine and the London Olympics will provide a welcome boost.
A rise in activity in the hospitality trade and strong sales of TVs are predicted. It is also hoped the European championships will generate "positivity" that will fuel consumer spending.
Meanwhile, Failte Ireland is predicting an influx of visitors here during the London Olympics, ranging from Londoners escaping the games to international tourists making a side trip to Ireland.
The retail sector desperately needs the boost after posting some of the worst sales figures since the onset of recession.
Publicans were among the hardest hit, with an overall decline of 9.9pc in bar sales, followed by other retailers who noted an overall 8.8pc decrease in sales. Book and newspaper sellers suffered a 7.3pc decline in sales over the past year.
Not surprisingly, the significant increase in the price of petrol and diesel -- which has increased by an average of 20 cent a litre over the past year -- led to a 6.6pc decline in sales volume for fuel.
Department stores also suffered a drop in sales of 5.6pc over the past year.
Stephen Lynman, director of Retail Ireland, said: "These figures combined mean that sales have not fallen at this pace since the darkest days of 2009."
But he said this summer's sporting events and tourism had "the potential to increase the feel-good factor -- and spending".
David Fitzsimons, CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland, said: "Generally, we think the mood of the nation will lift and that there is reason for optimism."
Donal O'Keeffe, CEO of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), representing Dublin publicans, said he was also optimistic.
"We do have high hopes and we expect that Euro 2012 will be a real boost to trade," he said, adding: "If there's an overflow to Dublin from the Olympics, that will also help."
There are already some signs of recovery in one of the largest shopping districts in the country, according to the Dublin City Business Improvement District.
The association, which represents 2,500 city-centre businesses, has recorded an increase in consistent footfall in the city centre for the first time since 2006 and a corresponding increase in sales.
"Feedback from our members indicates that trading levels for the first quarter of 2012 have exceeded expectations across all sectors, consolidating the gain experienced over the Christmas period for the first time since the onset of the recession," said Richard Guiney, the association's CEO.
He added: "Nobody is breaking open the champagne but footfall is turning into sales."