Encouraging start to 2019 for Irish retail

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the sector, today published its latest Retail Monitor. The report details that sales values grew by 4.7% in the first quarter of the year when compared with the same period in 2018, aided by a mild late Winter and early Spring. While these figures are robust, it must be highlighted that in this period last year, Ireland found itself under a blanket of snow and was suffering the disruptive effects of Storm Emma. There has also been a modest uptick in consumer confidence this quarter coming off the back of some respite from Brexit uncertainty and this is reflected in the sales data.

Director of Retail Ireland, Thomas Burke, said: “After a rocky fourth quarter of 2018, in which trade ebbed and flow almost by the day, retailers will be hoping that a level of consistency to trade can be found in 2019. It is clear that retail sales patterns in the second half of 2018 were heavily impacted by Brexit related commentary. An extension to the negotiating period until October seems to have calmed nerves somewhat. The daily game of brinkmanship is no longer leading news bulletins, and for hard-pressed Irish retailers this is good news. On the back of this we have seen an uptick in consumer sentiment as people’s worst fears of a crash out Brexit, have been allayed, at least for the moment”.

The Monitor also shows that while sales are up across almost all categories of retail, the ever-present trends of discounting and the continuing shift to online are also evident, particularly in retail categories such as computers and electrical goods and department stores.

In terms of the outlook for the remainder of the year, Mr Burke concluded: “Many businesses will have budgeted against the performance of Summer 2018. For those categories that are particularly reliant on good weather to drive footfall and sales, clearly this will prove challenging. With no guarantee of a similar prolonged spell of fine weather retailers will have to be creative if they are to achieve such heights once more.”

Key trends set out in the Retail Ireland Q1 2019 Monitor include:

Supermarkets and Convenience Stores: The primary driver for volume over value growth continues to be competitive action with the battle for market share between multiples very intense and the slower but inexorable continuing growth of discounters also contributing to downward pressures. A buoyant economy has been good news for the convenience sector, which is also in growth.

Pharmacy: Q1 was a solid quarter with strong January sales. Beauty categories were strong across Valentine’s day, with gifts & fragrance lines performing particularly well. Seasonal healthcare was soft with the exception of hay fever, which saw an early boost due to milder weather. The non like for like timing of Easter & Mother’s Day was challenging in March, but the quarter remained moderately positive year on year.

DIY & Hardware: The quarter saw strong growth for the DIY, Home & Garden sector, helped in no small measure by the early kick off of the gardening season and this year’s more favourable weather conditions. Consumers are clearly more confident to engage in small DIY projects, as evidenced by a marked uptick in both interior and exterior DIY categories.

Fashion & Footwear: Sales of fashion and footwear continue to fluctuate, affected by issues such as increased competition from online UK shopping platforms and changes in the value of sterling. This quarter saw some good news as the value of sales in the quarter increased by 6% and with sales volumes also showing growth of 7.4%

Fuel: The price of both petrol and diesel at the pumps increased on the same period last year from 137.6c and 127.1c in April 2018 respectively to 142.3c for petrol and 137c for diesel. There was also an increase in sales volumes of 8% in comparison to the same period last year, while sales values increased by 10.5%.

Electrical Goods: The first quarter of 2019 saw a marked increase in the sales of personal computers and electrical goods in comparison with the same time period last year, with sales volumes posting growth of 19.7% and sales value rising by 7.5%. There remains a significant disparity between the growth rate of sales volumes and values. This is due in part to deep discounting which has become something of a mainstay in the electronics category

logo - Twitter