Irish consumers will spend more this Christmas, but a push is on to ensure that overseas online retailers are not the only businesses to benefit.
Business group, Retail Ireland, predicts that spending will grow to €4.5bn — an average of €2,654 per household and a 2.6% increase on the same period last year.
The positive forecast is based on stronger spending this year, higher employment, competitive prices, and growing consumer confidence. It is also backed by successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, for which some retailers reported record sales.
Retail Ireland director, Thomas Burke, said: “Retailers are approaching Christmas, 2017 with an air of confidence not seen in many years.”
However, the surge will not necessarily translate into a Christmas bonus for all, as consumers are increasingly buying online, from overseas retailers. Almost 75% of the goods bought online now come from overseas stores.
Mr Burke said online sales were likely to top €16bn in 2017, an increase of 50% in just two years. “This is one of the greatest challenges facing the trade, this Christmas season, as, unfortunately, Irish retailers have thus far been unable to stem the flow of online consumer spending currently leaving these shores.
“Given that growth in the e-commerce world is running at six times that of traditional bricks-and-mortar outlets, the opportunity for sales uplift is clear. Those who can crack the online world stand to benefit greatly.”
Traditional main street retailers are holding their own, however, and 90% of all sales still take place across the counter.
Mr Burke urged retailers to make the most of the Irish shopper’s loyalty and give them the best in-store experience possible.
The value of retail sales, to October this year, was 3.7% up on the same period last year, while the volume of sales was up 6.8%, indicating lower prices. It is the highest year-on-year boost in sale values since 2007.
But another challenge facing retailers is cross-border shopping. Sales slowed in recent months and, according to Retail Ireland: “It is likely that cross-border trade in cars and other goods, accompanied by strong growth in cross-border online shopping, has driven this phenomenon.”
Different sectors in the retail industry are gearing up for the last three weeks of Christmas shopping in different ways. Supermarkets expect their surge in shoppers in the week beginning December 18 and Retail Ireland says while there is great value for shoppers, competitive discounting will put pressure on the stores.
Department stores are expecting a “nail-biter”, banking on last-minute shopping to boost their tills. Computer and electronics stores are anticipating continued strong demand for TVs, tablets, and gaming systems, despite prices returning to normal after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
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