Retail sales in March fell 2.1 per cent compared with February as a result of poor car sales.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that excluding the motor trade, sales volumes fell 0.1 per cent in the month. Sales volumes were 5.2 per cent higher on an annual basis.
The CSO said that sales in department stores fell by 4 per cent, while motor trades were down 2.7 per cent, and sales of electrical goods dropped by 2.1 per cent.
The figures also show sales in the “other retail sales” category rose by 3.5 per cent on a monthly basis, while food, beverages and tobacco sales grew by 2.1 per cent. Sales of hardware, paints and glass were up 1.9 per cent.
Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) chief executive Mark Fielding said there was a "gradual improvement" in volume sales, which he "expects to continue".
“However the sector is still threatened by increasing input costs,” he said. “Allied to this is a slow recovery in sales value which is still over 10 per cent below 2007 levels. The increased input costs and reduced value is reducing margin and threatening the sustainability of many SME retailers.
“Retailers are reporting demands for increases in rents of 15 per cent to 20 per cent, added to the continuing disproportionate local authority rates, energy costs above the norm, insurance and bank interest and charges at Celtic tiger levels and wage demands of eye-watering proportions.”