RETAIL sales surged by 6.3pc in 2014, helped by strong car sales and an increase in Christmas spending.
The yearly increase comes after six years of falling or stagnant sales, though even with this rise, purchases are still a little below where they were a decade ago.
And although consumers are finally buying more, they're only doing so if the price is right, as the value of purchases is up by a modest 4.1pc, provisional new Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show.
When car sales are excluded from the picture, retail growth during the year was a more modest 3.7pc, with the value of these purchases rising just 1.7pc.
The increase is very welcome but it does show that stores have had to cut prices and offer strong value to encourage shoppers, said Sean Murphy of Retail Excellence Ireland.
"Consumer behaviour has fundamentally altered and people will not buy unless they feel the price is right," he said.
This was particularly noticeable during the December period, when many shoppers had brought forward their shopping to Black Friday in November when there were deep discounts available, he said.
The CSO figures show that the volume of retail sales increased by 0.5pc in December compared to November, though they were up 5.1pc on December 2013.
Again, the increase was much less pronounced when motor trade sales were excluded, and in terms of the amount of money spent.
The pharmaceutical and cosmetic sector saw the biggest monthly increase in December, with hardware and fuel sales also rising, whereas furniture, clothing and footwear saw dips in sales.
Consumer spending continues to be erratic on a monthly basis but on a year-on-year basis it is well up, said Alan McQuaid of Merrion stockbrokers.
"There were clear signs of stronger personal expenditure in 2014, particularly in relation to new cars, concert tickets and online internet shopping," he said.
"Although there is still a general air of caution among consumers, there seems to be a view that the worst is over following the downturn of recent months."
The fall in unemployment from 15.1pc in 2012 to 10.6pc now was a key factor in spending, he added.