Rain-soaked July dampens consumer spirits as retail sales fall

Bar sales fell 5.5% in the month, suffering the worst monthly decline, as car sales cushion figures

Car sales continued put a gloss on the wider retail sector in July, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), while bar sales declined against the backdrop of record-breaking wet weather.

General retail sector sales volumes fell by 0.8 per cent in July, though they were 5.9 per cent higher than a year ago, the CSO said on Monday.

But the new figures from the statistics agency show that when the motor trade is excluded from the data, retail sales volumes declined by 4 per cent in the month and improved by just a meagre 0.3 per cent in the year to the end of July.

Sales in the statistically volatile motor trade – which includes both the sale and maintenance of new and second-hand vehicles and motorcycles – increased 15 per cent in the 12 months to the end of last month as automakers continue to recover from the impact of Covid-induced supply chain bottlenecks.


Meanwhile, bars and pubs (-5.5 per cent) suffered the worst percentage drop-off in sales in what Met Éireann has described, provisionally, as the wettest July on record. Bar sales volumes were down 2.7 per cent in the 12 months to the end of July.

Monthly declines were also observed in the food, beverages & tobacco (-4.3 per cent), hardware, paints and glass (-3.5 per cent), non-specialised stores, including supermarkets (-3.5 per cent), and books, newspapers and stationery (-3.3 per cent) categories.

Commenting on the release, Bernard Nulty, director at Falcon AM, which is the asset manager for the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, said that poor weather is likely to have dampened spending but that the figures were encouraging.

“Covered centres tend to fare well during periods of bad weather and this is reflected in what we saw over the summer in Blanchardstown Centre, where footfall was up 9 per cent on July 2022, and 8 per cent up on July 2019, pre-Covid,” he said. The most recent sales reports from our tenants are also generally higher when compared to July 2022, on a like-for-like basis.

“Catering and food and beverage tenants in particular saw a bounce of between 5-10 per cent in their sales reports in July, compared to the same month last year, perhaps benefiting from the adverse conditions outdoors.”

Looking ahead, Mr Nulty said August is looking similarly positive.

On an annual basis, the CSO said sales volume increases were seen in the fuel (+6.3 per cent), furniture and lighting (+5.2 per cent), and books, newspapers and stationery (+4.5 per cent), while declines were observed in department stores (-11.7 per cent), food, beverages and tobacco (-8.7 per cent), electrical goods (-4.5 per cent) and bars (-2.7 per cent).

Consumer spending has remained surprisingly strong this year despite the strain on household budgets from higher inflation.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times