Retail sales fall in December as Omicron spoils Christmas for retailers

CSO data shows volume of sales fell 3.2% as consumers spent less in bars and on goods

Retail sales fell in December as the Omicron variant hit, the Government reimposed restrictions and consumers spent less in bars, on electrical goods and clothing.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show retail volumes were down by 3.2 per cent on the previous month and by 2.2 per cent on an annual basis, hurting retailers over the traditionally busy Christmas period.

The retail environment is also being hit by rising prices, with inflation hitting a 21-year high of 5.5 per cent in December.

The sectors that suffered most compared with November were bars (-34.7 per cent), electrical goods (-22.5 per cent), and clothing and footwear (-11.3 per cent).

Sales in furniture and lighting (+10.9 per cent) fared best in the monthly comparison, followed by food, beverages and tobacco (+4.3 per cent) and books, newspapers and stationery (+3.5 per cent).

On an annual basis, car sales were down 18 per cent.

Pre-Covid

Compared with December 2019 – two years previously and pre-pandemic – the volume of retail sales in December 2021 was 4.8 per cent higher.

Several sectors showed significant changes compared with the December 2019 figures. The highest increases were seen in furniture and lighting (+22.5 per cent) and pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles (+19.8 per cent). The largest decreases in the volume of sales in December when compared with December 2019 levels were bars (-49.3 per cent) and fuel (-6.3 per cent).

Separate figures from Mastercard show retail spending in Dublin grew in the final three months of last year. The latest Mastercard SpendingPulse, produced on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, shows that total retail spending in Dublin rose by 0.4 per cent quarter on quarter and 5.1 per cent year on year to reach a new peak index reading of 138.5.

The report noted there was considerable variation in the performance of the different segments of Dublin’s retail sector, with significant uplifts across the quarter in the entertainment segment, where hotels, restaurants and bars experienced expenditure growth of 14.7 per cent.

By contrast, spending on clothes and at department stores fell 4.4 per cent.