Retail sales weaken on lower car sales

Department stores a bright spot with sales increase of 6%

Books, newspapers and stationery saw the largest monthly volume decreases with sales down 6.2%. Photograph: iStock

Books, newspapers and stationery saw the largest monthly volume decreases with sales down 6.2%. Photograph: iStock

 

Irish retail sales fell 0.2 per cent in February, again dragged lower by both new and used car sales, but the rate of decline has slowed significantly.

Monthly figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that if motor trades are excluded, the volume of sales actually increased by 0.6 per cent compared to January, and by 6.3 per cent in the year.

This comes as Irish consumers look to the UK to purchase cars on the back of sterling weakness.

Books, newspapers and stationery saw the largest monthly volume decreases, with sales down 6.2 per cent. The food, beverage and tobacco category saw sales fall 3.9 per cent, while the volume of sales in the motor industry fell 3.6 per cent in the month.

Month-on-month volume increases were recorded for department stores, which recorded a sales increase of 5.9 per cent, while non-specialised stores reported an improvement of 5.3 per cent in volumes

The value of retail sales dropped in the month, down 1 per cent compared to January. If motor trades are excluded there was a monthly increase of 0.5 per cent and an increase of 3.8 per cent compared to February 2017.

Annual figures show the volume of retail sales increased 2 per cent, but Davy economist Conall MacCoille said those headline figures were “artificially weak”, and he placed more importance on the “core” figures which strip out motor trades.

Significant sales increases were noted in the electrical goods category, which increased 13.3 per cent on the year, and the furniture and lighting category, up 12.2 per cent.

Big-ticket items

“Once again the best performing sectors are those which suffered badly during the recession, big-ticket items and discretionary purchases, where spending is now bouncing back,” Mr MacCoille said.

Merrion Capital economist Alan McQuaid said he expected personal spending to post a positive rise this year as the unemployment rate dropped and disposable incomes pick up. “Retail sales remain erratic on a monthly basis and are still swinging back and forth, but the underlying trend is positive.”

Retail sales are a relatively significant component of consumer spending, which rose by 1.9 per cent last year. While “core” retail sales are anticipated to be higher this year, Mr McQuaid suggests the increase in headline retail sales will likely be lower than 2017.