Pubs and cars post falls in retail sales but spending boom for furniture and electrical retailers

Pubs, cars, and department stores were the only three of 13 retail businesses to post falls in their retail sales in the first three months of the year, official figures show.

The CSO figures for the three months to the end of March also show something of a spending boom that is underway in homes-related shops with huge uplifts in sales for furniture and lighting and electrical goods.

By volume, bar sales fell by a significant 3% compared with the same three months a year earlier, the largest decline posted in the 13 types of retail businesses.

There was some better news for publicans in terms of the money taken from those lower volumes. Sales measured in terms of the value of the sales shrunk a meagre 0.1% in the year, which suggests publicans may have been able to raise prices despite a decline in demand.

The well-known pressures facing new car sales showed up in the motor trades where the volume of motors sold slipped by 0.6% in the year and edged lower by 0.2% in terms of the value, or money taken from the sales.

Department store sales slipped 0.2% in volume terms and 2.6% in terms of the value of the sales in the year.

By way of comparison, the average pickup in all 13 retail businesses monitored by the CSO was 2.9% and 2% in terms of volume and value in the same period.

The standout performers of furniture and electrical goods posted huge gains by volume and by value, of almost 21% and 20%, in the first three months from a year earlier.

In terms of the value of those sales for retailers, the category of furniture and lighting climbed by over 15%, while electrical goods posted a gain of 7.7%.

Other home-related retail products appear to be winning out: Sales by volume of hardware, paints, and glass rose 9.7% and by 8.5% in terms of the value of the sales.

Chemists and other retailers of drugs and cosmetics appear to be thriving too, the CSO figures suggest. Sales of pharmaceuticals and medical products and cosmetics climbed by over 7% in volume terms, and by 5.3% in terms of the value in the three-month period.

In March, overall retail sales fell 0.8% from February but climbed 4.9% from March 2018, the CSO said. The month-on-month retail sales figures tend to be volatile which is why most economists look to the three- month period to detect trends.

The CSO said the sales of electrical goods and fuel posted the largest gains of all retail businesses in March from February. And sales of motor retailers and hardware, paints, and glass posted the sharpest declines.

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