Black Friday drives retail sales in November

Sales of electrical goods rose ahead of Christmas, CSO numbers show

A jump in the sale of electrical goods ahead of Christmas linked to the annual Black Friday shopping spree boosted retail sales in November.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show there was a 14.5 per cent increase in sales of electrical goods during the month, which included the "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" sale days on November 24th and November 27th.

However, some analysts questioned whether these US-inspired promotional events were merely leading consumers to do their Christmas shopping earlier than usual, rather than making many additional purchases.

“The question remains whether spending has merely been brought forward from the traditional December season to November,” Davy analyst David McNamara said, noting industry surveys suggested that December spending was disappointing for Irish retailers.

However, he acknowledged that Irish consumer spending “will be higher once again in Q4 as a recovering labour market and wage growth drive demand”.

The CSO figures show there was an overall increase of 2.6 per cent in the volume of retail sales in November when compared with the previous month and an increase of 6.8 per cent in the annual figure.

If volatile motor trades are excluded, there was a monthly increase of 1.9 per cent and an annual increase of 7.6 per cent .

Department stores

The other sectors with the largest monthly volume increases were department stores, which enjoyed a 6.7 per cent bounce in sales, while the CSO’s “Other Retail” category, which includes toys and flowers, rose by 5.7 per cent.

The sector with the largest month-on-month volume decrease was pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles, which notched up an 11.2 per cent drop in sales. Sales in bars and of books, newspapers and stationery were also down.

“All in all, personal spending is likely to have been higher in 2017 than 2016, boosted by the continued fall in unemployment, but with the overall increase in headline sales set to be lower than the previous year,” Merrion analyst Alan McQuaid said.

“However, excluding motor trades, a higher retail sales rise than 2016 is anticipated. Taking all the factors into account, we are now forecasting headline retail sales volume growth of around 4 per cent in 2017,” he said.

Chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) Neil McDonnell said: “2018 will be a challenging year the retail sector. There is still a lot of uncertainty around Brexit, currency fluctuations, increased cross-Border shopping, labour costs and the impact of commercial rate revaluations on local shops in our towns and villages.”

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times