Sales of formal clothing and beauty products up as social activity rebounds

Retail report from AIB shows sales of electrical items fell in the second quarter as many people returned to offices

Sales of formal clothing and beauty products increased significantly in the second quarter of the year as the number of rescheduled weddings and social occasions picked up in earnest, while demand for electrical items slowed as many people returned to offices, a new report shows.

The latest AIB Retail Spend Outlook Report found that, overall, sales in the quarter remained stable, recording a modest 1 per cent decline year-on-year. The value of in-store sales saw an increase of 5 per cent on last year with a decline of 17 per cent in the online channel.

The movement between in-store and online spend should be viewed in the context of restrictions on some elements of the retail sector last year, it said.

With rescheduled weddings taking place this year, clothing and beauty sales bounced back significantly. In particular, categories such as cosmetics, dresses, shoes and men’s formal wear saw large increases in spending.

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Clothing saw the most dramatic increase in spending, with the overall category up 13 per cent on last year. This included a very significant change in consumer behaviour, with a 55 per cent increase in the in-store sales values and an 18 per cent decline in online sales.

However, many trends have reversed compared to a year ago. As more people returned to offices and hybrid working, the demand for electrical items slowed.

Furthermore, as hospitality has opened up, sales in grocery stores (-2 per cent), electronics (-18 per cent) and off-licences (-19 per cent) declined.

AIB head of retail sector Alan Makim said: “The second quarter this year did not see Covid-related restrictions, which had remained in place into early May last year.

“The data shows evidence of some behavioural changes, such as consumers returning to in-person shopping after an exclusively online environment for some parts of the sector in the first half of last year.

“While the data shows some positive elements, it also suggests an element of caution among consumers, given the current inflationary environment which will likely have an impact on the discretionary spending power and attitudes of consumers as we look forward.”

Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence Ireland, said more Government measures will be needed to help businesses in the coming months.

“As the quarter came to an end, the summer sales started earlier and further discounts were added to clear stock,” he said.

“Further price increases are expected into the autumn as manufacturing, shipping, energy and labour costs all continue to increase. More Government measures will be needed to assist businesses in managing through a difficult trading period.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter