Retailers in crisis after worst sales figures for 25 years

 

Gloomy business leaders warned this evening that the retail trade was in deep crisis after stores recorded the worst sales figures for a almost a quarter of a century.

Total sales for October was down 7.3 per cent on the same month last year — the largest
fall since February 1984, according to the Central Statistics Office.

And when car sales are taken out of the survey, retailers have been hit with the worst figures since 1975.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises body said takings in the run-up to Christmas had been disastrous.

ISME head of research Jim Curran said: “While the sharp downturn over the last number of months was unprecedented, unfortunately the indicators are that things are going to get worse before they get better.”

The poor returns have been blamed partly on the strength of the euro against Sterling, which has lured thousands of bargain-hunting shoppers across the border to Northern Ireland.

A virtual standstill in the property market has also hit sales on furnishings, household and electrical goods while hardware was one of the worst performing sectors, down 6.3 per cent.

Deepening concerns for small independent retailers, ISME warned nearly half of its members have laid off staff and a third expect to shed jobs next year.

“In all areas there has been a sharp deterioration in the last quarter, with jobs in the sector imploding, sales plummeting, investment non-existent, exports falling through the floor and confidence at an all time low,” Mr Curran said.

Ulster Bank warned the disastrous returns were set to continue on into 2009.

In its latest economic review, the bank said consumers were reluctant to spend even in the run up to Christmas and the trend would further damage traders early next year.

“Despite the fact that inflation is set to turn negative, the deteriorating labour market will more than offset the benefits of this, resulting in heightened consumer caution and saving and a further slowdown in spending,” the bank said. “We forecast that consumer spending will fall by 3 per cent in 2009.”