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Irish Retail Sales dip 1.7% in March

Irish retail sales continued to worsen in March, new data from the Central Statistics Office show, with the volume of sales falling 1.7 per cent compared to the same month last year.

The motor trade continued to support sales figures last month with an 8.7 per cent increase compared to March 2010. When this sector was excluded from the overall figures, the decline widened to 3.5 per cent.

Clothing, footwear and textiles rose by 2.8 per cent compared to a year earlier.

However, these rises were partly offset by a 5.5 per cent fall in the sales of pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles, and fuel fell by 12.6 per cent. Furniture and lighting showed a marked decline at 13.9 per cent.

On a monthly basis, sales increased marginally, rising by 0.1 per cent compared with February.

The value of retail sales rose by 1.2 per cent in March compared with a year earlier, and month-on-month, sales climbed by 0.1 per cent.

Excluding the motor trade reversed the yearly increase to a fall of 2.5 per cent, while the monthly increase was 0.7 per cent.

"March retail sales confirm that the underlying momentum in consumer spending remains weak and with persistent weakness in the labour market affecting both discretionary income and consumer confidence, the retail sector is set to continue to struggle," Goodbody economist Juliet Tennant said. "The latest trends do nothing to alter our view that consumer spending will decline 2 per cent this year."

The CSO also revealed its provisional estimates for the first quarter of 2011. Retail sales volume is expected to increase by 0.6 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2010. However, a comparison with the final quarter of 2010 is expected to show a fall of 2.3 per cent.

"Given the volatility in the monthly figures, it never really pays to look at one month in isolation. The release of the March retail figures allows for analysis of spending patterns over the first quarter of the year," said Bank of Ireland economist Lynsey Clemenger.

"While the figures indicate renewed weakness in early 2011 and certainly don’t bode well for the official first quarter total consumer spending figures (from the Quarterly National Accounts), the decline here was largely attributable to the motors-related fall in January and we would not be surprised to see some recovery in the Q2 figures," she said.

Source : Ciara O'Brien - Irish

28 April 2011
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