By Geoff Percival
This year is expected to see a marked slowdown in the pace of retail sales growth, with up to a half of 2017’s growth rate likely to be wiped out.
Latest CSO figures show retail sales volumes fell by 2.2% in March, compared to the previous month. On a year-on-year basis, volumes fell by 2.8%.
That compared unfavourably to a revised annual increase of 1.6% for February. Only two of the 13 retail sectors measured by the CSO — electrical goods and bars — posted monthly volume increases with the other 11 all showing a decline.
“The adverse weather was clearly a factor in March, but it should also be pointed out that headline sales have fallen for four months running on a monthly basis, so there may be more to it than just that.
However, when one strips out motor trades, retail sales in general have held up quite well,” said Alan McQuaid, chief economist with Merrion Capital.
The CSO now estimates that headline retail sales volumes were 2.9% higher in 2017 than in 2016.
Core sales — when car sales are excluded — are estimated to have risen by 4.3% for the whole of last year.
“We think personal spending will post another positive rise as the unemployment rate drops below 6% and disposable incomes rise, though the increase in headline retail sales is likely to be lower than 2017, at 1% to 1.5%,” said Mr McQuaid.