Bar sales slump as furniture and electrical surge

Furniture and electrical stores and supermarkets have gained sales in recent months, but bars were the only business to post significant falls.

The latest CSO figures show electrical goods as the winner across 13 types of retailers, with sales surging 18.4% in terms of the volume of goods sold in the three months to the end of February, from a year earlier (a period that covers most of the Christmas spending season).

Many analysts prefer looking at the three-month figures, because the monthly figures are so volatile.

Electrical goods sales, in terms of their value, also climbed, but at a relatively less impressive rate of 6.8%, suggesting that consumers were tapping discounts during the period.

Something of the same pattern emerges in sales of furniture and lighting, which rose strongly, by 11% in volume terms, from a year earlier, and by 5.4% in value terms, over the same period.

That suggests that householders are spending on household equipment, despite consumer-sentiment surveys pointing to shoppers being cautious amid the uncertainty of Brexit.

Pharmacies and cosmetic retailers emerge as big winners, too, over the three months — their volume sales rose 6.3% in the year and were up 3.7% in value terms.

Sales by volume at supermarkets were also up strongly, by 4.9% in volume, and by 4% in value terms.

But bars appear to have underperformed over the Christmas period. By volume, their sales through the end of February fell 4.2% from a year earlier and dipped 0.9% in value terms.

In February, overall retail sales rose 2.1% in volume terms, from January, and climbed 5.1% from a year earlier, according to the CSO.

Clothing and motor trades posted the largest volume increases from January. Excluding motor sales, retail sales rose 1.4% in the month and by 5.3% from February 2018.

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