Retail sales lift as consumers return to bars and spend more on cosmetics

The volume of retail sales last month was 12.6% higher than September 2019

Retail sales strengthened again in September as consumers spent more on cosmetics and electrical goods and returned to bars and restaurants.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show retail sales, a strong indicator of consumer demand, rose by 0.3 per cent in September compared with the previous month.

On an annual basis, retail volumes were 0.7 per cent higher than in September 2020, but the CSO cautioned that year-on-year comparisons were misleading because of the low base of sales that took place at various points last year.

Compared with pre-pandemic September 2019, the volume of retail sales in September 2021 was 12.6 per cent higher, the CSO said.


The sectors with the highest monthly increases were bars (12.3 per cent); pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles (7.8 per cent); books, newspapers and stationery (6.5 per cent); and electrical goods (5.1 per cent),

In contrast, car sales declined by 6 per cent.

2019 comparison

Several sectors showed significant changes compared with their corresponding level of sales in September 2019.

The highest increases were seen in electrical goods (31.5 per cent); pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles (27.1 per cent); department stores (25 per cent); and furniture and lighting (22.6 per cent).

Despite the bounce-back, other sectors have so far failed to surpass pre-pandemic levels of sales.

The largest reductions occurred in bars (20.2 per cent down on September 2019) and books, newspapers and stationery (8.3 per cent down on September).

In its latest quarterly bulletin the Central Bank predicted turbo-charged growth of 15.3 per cent this year, nearly double its previous forecast in July, on the back of a rapid resurgence in consumer spending linked to the unwinding of €16 billion in excess savings built up during the pandemic.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times