Retail sales drop by more than a fifth in January

Bar trade takes biggest hit with 75% decline as electrical goods only sector to see increase

Retail sales plunged by almost 22 per cent in January as tighter coronavirus restrictions curbed activity across the sector.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the bar trade took the biggest hit with sales declining by 75.1 per cent month on month.

There were also major declines for clothing, footwear and textiles (-72.2 per cent), furniture and lighting (-49 per cent), books, newspapers and stationery (-47.9 per cent) and department stores (-36.8 per cent) when compared with December.

With travel restrictions in place, car sales and fuel were down 33.2 per cent and 22.4 per cent respectively.


The figures coincided with the introduction of tougher restrictions in late December in response to a big upsurge in coronavirus cases.

They show sales were down in 12 of the 13 retail divisions covered by the CSO’s data. Electrical goods was the only sector to record an increase in sales (1.3 per cent) in January.

The CSO numbers do not cover the level of online retail activity related to non-Irish registered companies.

The proportion of retail sales transacted online, from Irish registered companies, increased to 10.9 per cent in January, up from 5.8 per cent in December.

On an annual basis, retail volumes were 14.1 per cent lower in January compared with January 2020.

When car sales are excluded, the volume of retail sales decreased by 16.3 per cent in January over the previous month and decreased by 9.8 per cent when compared with January 2020.

The latest figures also came of a collection of data from 2020. They showed highest monthly volume decrease in retail sales occurred in April (-35.7 per cent).

The smaller contraction this time around may reflect the fact that more retailers have moved part of their business online.

The highest monthly volume increase was recorded in June last year, when sales rose 41.4 per cent following the lifting of the first lockdown.

Commenting on the release, CSO statistician Stephanie Kelleher said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed had a significant impact on the retail sector in 2020.

“The year 2020 saw the highest seasonally adjusted monthly decrease in April (-35.7 per cent) related to the first lockdown followed by a sharp recovery in May (+32.8 per cent ) and June 2020 (+41.4 per cent ) as the country reopened.”

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times