Traders expect shopping lull after 'perfect storm'
Shopping is expected to plunge to a record low this month as traders were hit by a perfect storm in the run up to Christmas, they said today.
The severe weather heaped further misery on retailers already reeling from a double-whammy dip in sales after the International Monetary Fund-backed bailout and the crushing austerity budget.
David Fitzsimons, chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, said large retail parks and city centres were worst affected as shoppers refused to venture far from home.
"The retail industry has been hit with the perfect storm in recent weeks," he said.
"If IMF intervention and a very severe budget were not enough, the arrival of arctic conditions has minimised shopping activity and has left many of the largest destination shopping centres and cities near empty."
Dublin has been particularly badly affected as customers and even workers stay away from the city centre and the primary M50 shopping centres, traders said.
Late night trading has been also been decimated as customers bad weather meant were more concerned with getting home as early as possible.
But while smaller regional shops have been impacted by an overall fall in sales, they reaped the rewards of more people shopping local rather than risking longer road journeys during the big freeze.
Retail Excellence Ireland predicted a 6.7pc drop in sales this month compared to last December. However, it expected a "significant lift" during the sales after Christmas.
Some retailers are expected to reopen on St Stephen's Day.
Meanwhile, official figures for the amount of goods being bought increased by 0.9pc in the last year.
Cars made up a massive part of the rise, up 15pc in the 12 months to the end of November, while household goods such as furniture and lighting collapsed by almost 10pc in the same period.
The central Statistics Office said despite the welcome increases the actual value of sales fell by 1.1pc.