Retail sales surge in third quarter

Sales figures show strong growth across most segments of sector

Retail Excellence Ireland said the third quarter was the first quarter in seven years to show three consecutive months of sales growth. Menswear and home appliances showed the strongest growth.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Retail Excellence Ireland said the third quarter was the first quarter in seven years to show three consecutive months of sales growth. Menswear and home appliances showed the strongest growth. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Government’s hints over the summer that the budget would be the first in six years to not hit people’s pockets paid dividends for retailers, with a 1.75 per cent surge in retail sales in the three months to the end of September.

The latest quarterly sales figures from industry lobby group Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), derived from data harvested directly from the tills of 4,500 Irish stores, show strong growth across most segments of the retail sector.

REI said the quarter was the first in seven years to show three consecutive months of sales growth. Menswear and home appliances showed the strongest growth, although pharmacy sales continued to collapse, mostly because of reductions in State prescription fees.

“[It] bodes well for the vital Christmas period as consumers respond to a more benign economic environment with renewed confidence, building on what was effectively a neutral budget,” said Seán Murphy, REI’s deputy chief executive.

Beverage sales Hot beverage sales from coffee shops and forecourts, considered within the industry to be a good barometer of overall economic activity and consumer confidence, were up 5.44 per cent over the quarter.

Menswear sales rose by almost 8.5 per cent and were up 12.15 per cent in July alone, the strongest monthly gain in the segment since REI began collecting such data at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom.

The quarter was the strongest for consumer electronics since the switchover to Saorview in October 2012, according to GFK, the research firm that collated the data.

Nigel Catlow, the consumer electronics director of GFK, said the consumer electronics growth was driven by “jumbo” television sales and audio systems.

“50 inch-plus TVs are the main contributor with equivalent value growth of 55 per cent. As ownership of these jumbo sets is low, this growth should continue for some time,” said Mr Catlow.

Housing-market confidence Sales in most segments connected to confidence in the housing market were up

. Furniture and flooring were up close to 4 per cent and major home appliances rising by 13.8 per cent.

GFK said the strong growth in major appliances was driven by consumers seeking more energy- and water-efficient dishwashers and washing machines.

“Many products bought at the height of the boom now need to be replaced” it said.

Garden centre sales were down 1.2 per cent over the quarter but surged by more than 10 per cent in September on the back of the unseasonably warm weather, REI said.

Growth in grocery sales didn’t keep pace with the retail industry average, nudging ahead by just 0.66 per cent over the quarter, as intense price competition in the sector continues to drive the market.

REI warned that “the continued implosion” in pharmacy sales will likely lead to “significant store closures” arising from the ongoing effect of State cuts.