Retail sales lift as consumers splash out on clothes and electrical goods

Volume of sales in November was 0.6% higher in monthly terms and 16% up on 2020

Retail sales rose in November as consumers splashed out on clothes, electrical goods and cosmetics in the run-up to Christmas.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show retail volumes rose by 0.6 per cent in November compared with the previous month.

On an annual basis, they were up 16.3 per cent on November 2020. However, only essential retail was open in November 2020 as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, making year-on-year comparisons misleading.

Retail sales in November were nonetheless 10.9 per cent higher than in pre-Covid November 2019.



The sectors with the largest monthly volume increases in November 2021 were hardware (16.3 per cent); clothing and footwear (14.1 per cent). Sales of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and electrical goods were also up.

There were, however, reductions in the volume of sales in bars (-23.3 per cent) and furniture and lighting (-12.4 per cent).

On an annual basis bar sales were up 800 per cent while clothing and footwear sales were up 212 per cent from the low of November 2020.

Several sectors showed significant changes compared with their corresponding level of sales in November 2019.

The highest increases were seen in electrical goods (48.7 per cent); clothing and footwear (32 per cent);and pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles (28.2 per cent).

Despite the bounce-back, other sectors have so far failed to surpass pre-pandemic levels of sales, including bars (where sales are 29.2 per cent down on September 2019 levels) and books, newspapers and stationery (where sales are 11.6 per cent down on September 2019 levels).


Exchequer returns released earlier this week show VAT receipts for last year were €15.4 billion, 24 per cent higher than the total collected in 2020, reflecting the rebound in consumption as the economic recovery took hold. The sales tax is one of the strongest indicators of the pick-up in consumer activity.

The proportion of retail sales transacted online from Irish registered companies was 6.2 per cent in November 2021 compared to 5.5 per cent in October 2021.

The CSO’s retail data does not capture the online being transacted through non-Irish registered companies.

Separate Revenue data points to a massive rise in customs declarations on imported goods on foot of Brexit and an acceleration in ecommerce linked to the pandemic.

End-year figures published by the agency show it dealt with 25.4 million customs declarations on goods being imported from abroad in 2021, up from 1.8 million the previous year. Some 18.2 million related to goods being imported from Britain, which are now subject to new rules as a result of Brexit.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times