Retail sales increase by highest level ever recorded

Figures reflect recovery from very steep fall in first full month of the Covid-19 lockdown

The value of retail sales was 11.9 per cent higher in April than in March.

The value of retail sales was 11.9 per cent higher in April than in March.

 

The volume of retail sales were up 90.1 per cent last month when compared with April 2020, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

Retail sales increased by 7.4 per cent in April when compared with March on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The CSO noted that while the increase was the highest annual one ever recorded, it reflected a recovery from the very steep fall in sales in April 2020, the first full month of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

In April 2020, retail sales registered their largest monthly decline on record, falling by 36.9 per cent. The retail sales figure for April 2021 was 7.1 per cent higher than April 2019.

Recovering from the extremely low level of April 2020, the sectors with the highest annual increases were furniture and lighting (+694 per cent), motor trades (+576 per cent) and hardware, and paints and glass (+166 per cent).

“While these annual increases are significant, caution should be exercised when interpreting these changes, as the comparison is with an historically low base from a year ago,” the CSO said.

Retail sales

In April of last year, the annual volume of retail sales in furniture and lighting fell by 86 per cent, motor trades dropped by 81 per cent and hardware, paints and glass declined by 49.6 per cent.

At the other end of the scale, the volume of sales in non-specialised stores (including supermarkets), which remained an essential retail service throughout the duration of the pandemic, had an annual increase of just 3.2 per cent in April.

Compared with April 2019, the volume of retail sales in April 2021 was 7.1 per cent higher than the level recorded for April 2019.

A number of sectors were below their corresponding level of sales in April 2019.

These included bars (-88.8 per cent), department stores (-73.4 per cent), clothing, footwear and textiles (-68.2 per cent), books, newspapers and stationery (-50.7 per cent) and fuel (-11.1 per cent).

All other sectors had a volume of sales in April 2021 which exceeded April 2019 levels, the highest increases were seen in hardware, paints and glass (+34.1 per cent), motor trades (+28.2 per cent) and food, beverages and tobacco (+26.7 per cent).

In April, the largest monthly increases in sales were recorded in bars (+42.2 per cent) and motor trades (+41 per cent).

The largest decreases in the month were in department stores (-54.3 per cent), clothing, footwear and textiles (-16.3 per cent) and books, newspapers and stationery (-14.8 per cent).

Strong recovery

When motor trades are excluded, the volume of retail sales decreased by 4.1 per cent in April over the previous month and increased by 27.6 per cent when compared to April 2020, again showing a strong recovery from the low base of last year.

The proportion of retail sales transacted online (from Irish registered companies) fell to 9.2 per cent in April 2021, down from 11.1 per cent of all retail sales in March and from a high of 15.3 per cent in April 2020.

Almost half of clothing, footwear and textiles (45.7 per cent), more than one third of department store sales (35.2 per cent) and one fifth of electrical goods (19.5 per cent) were transacted online in April 2021.

The value of retail sales was 11.9 per cent higher in April than in March. On an annual basis the value of retail sales was 97.8 per cent higher than April 2020.

Excluding motor trades, the value of retail sales decreased by 2.9 per cent in the month and increased by 25.7 per cent on an annual basis.