Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector, today welcomed the continued growth in retail sales as evidenced by the February sales numbers released by the CSO this morning. Retail sales values, excluding bars and car sales, increased by 3.3% on the same period in 2016, continuing the strong performance recorded in January. There was also strong volume growth across the retail sector in February, with sales volumes increasing 6.0% when compared to 2016.
The improved performance was not evenly distributed however, as there was a significant variation in category performance with large increases in fuel (+12.3%), furniture and lighting (+10.2%) and hardware, paints and glass (+6.3%) masking declines in other categories such as food and beverage (-1.2%), books, news and stationery (-0.8%) and electrical goods (-0.5%).
Retail Ireland Director Thomas Burke said: “The year started well for the retail sector with robust growth recorded in the January and February retail sales numbers. After a poor performance by the sector in the second half of 2016, these numbers are a cause for some optimism for the coming months.
Mr Burke did sound a note of caution however, regarding challenges that remain, "The disparity between the growth in retail sales volumes and values remain a concern. Volume growth remains twice that of value growth suggesting retailers still need to heavily discount products in order to drive footfall and sales. Furthermore, with recent indicators suggesting that consumer sentiment remains fragile, anecdotal evidence from members of tough trading conditions in March and threats of country wide public transport strikes in the coming weeks, retailers must remain vigilant".