'Worrying' sales figures put small firms at risk
THOUSANDS of small businesses are in danger of closure as "very worrying" new retail figures show just a slight improvement in sales after a March slump, the retail sector has warned.
Latest CSO figures show a modest monthly rise in the volume of retail sales, which increased by just 0.2pc in April over the previous month.
But despite the slight improvement, retailers and employers' groups said the figures showed a much gloomier picture when measured over the past year with retail sales continuing in a "distressed" state.
The latest CSO Retail Sales Index contains figures on both volume and value of retail sales across 13 different sectors.
April's volume of retail sales grew by 0.2pc over March when they actually fell by 2.2pc.
Value of monthly sales in April were also up by 0.3pc.
Books and newspapers (+8.7pc), electrical goods (+2.6pc) and the motor trade (+1.7pc) were the sectors with the largest month-on-month volume increases.
But employers' groups were unimpressed with the figures and said that when year-on-year comparisons were made, a far bleaker picture emerged with worrying slumps in value of sales in all but three of the 13 retail business sectors studied as part of the CSO's retail sales index.
The biggest April 2012 to April 2013 declines in retail sales were in clothing and footwear (down 5.8pc), books, newspapers and stationery (down 5.2pc) and furniture and lighting (-5.1pc)
But it's not all bad news, with improved sales in electrical goods (+2.5pc) supermarkets (+0.8pc) and department stores (0.4pc).
However, Retail Ireland described the latest sales index as "very worrying" and pointed to the serious need for a set of actions to help the domestic economy.
"We are now seeing a reversal of the trend in overall sales growth that we saw late last year and earlier this year," said Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynam.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) described the figures as disappointing at a time when retailers continued to struggle with "inequitable" rents and the crippling effects of the black market and unfair trading practices.
"It is unbelievable that the Government can stick its head in the sand and let the largest sector in the economy slowly grind to a halt," warned ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.