Retail sales rise before introduction of tighter restrictions

Latest CSO data point to modest recovery in certain sectors

The annual volume of other retail sales, which includes supermarkets, was up 23.9 per cent. Photograph: Neil Hall/ Reuters

The annual volume of other retail sales, which includes supermarkets, was up 23.9 per cent. Photograph: Neil Hall/ Reuters


Retail sales rose by 1.5 per cent in September boosted by car and DIY sales but several sectors, including bars, were still well behind pre-pandemic levels.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also predate the introduction of Level 5 restrictions, which has resulted in the closure of all non-essential retail.

This is expected to lead to another major downturn in sales in October and November.

On an annual basis, retail volumes were 9.7 per cent higher in September compared with September 2019.

When motor sales are excluded, the volume of retail sales was up by 1 per cent in September and 7.4 per cent on an annual basis.

Some sectors, particularly in the hospitality sector, have been slow to recover.

Bar sales remain the hardest hit and were down 49 per cent year on year in September, while sales of books, newspapers and stationery were down 11.6 per cent.

Greater numbers of people working from home also triggered a 10 per cent drop in fuel sales, while sales in department stores were marginally down on last year.

In contrast, the annual volume of retail sales was higher in hardware, paint and glass (+31.3 per cent), electrical goods (+29.6 per cent), other retail, which includes supermarkets (+23.9 per cent).

The largest monthly volume increases were in car sales (+5.7 per cent), hardware, paints and glass (+4.2 per cent) and clothing, footwear and textiles (+3.1 per cent).

As the volume of in-person shopping increased with stores reopening, the proportion of total retail sales transacted online has fallen from the high of 15.3 per cent recorded in April to 4.3 per cent in September, the CSO said.

However, the CSO’s figures do not cover the full extent of online sales here.

Contactless payments

Separate figures from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) suggested contactless payments hit a record high in third-quarter of 2020 with more than 182 million payments valued at almost €2.9 billion.

With a significant surge in contactless payments in recent months triggered largely by the Covid-19 pandemic, the figures show the number of contactless payments rose by 36 per cent year-on-year in the three-month period with the value of those payments up 77 per cent during the same period.

“And while activity did see a slight dip during September, there were two million contactless payments per day during the month of September, unchanged from August, with €31.1 million spent per day, down from €31.9 million a month earlier,” it said.