Retailers hit for six after Storm Emma kept customers away from shops

Storm Emma hit Irish retailers for tens of millions of euros as the snow and winds kept customers away from the shops, figures indicate.

Some in the retail sector suffered 30% losses during the week of extreme weather at the end of February and start of March, according to a new report from Retail Ireland.

The group said after a strong start to 2018, retailers have struggled to make up for the losses inflicted by Emma.

Retail Ireland director Thomas Burke said: "Our members enjoyed a strong start to 2018 with a buoyant economy and growing consumer disposable income fuelling strong sales.

"However, the benefit of that increase was largely wiped away during the last week of February, as Storm Emma caused widespread disruption and closures over four key trading days (Thursday-Sunday), and longer-term supply chain and consumer disruption which ran into a full week.

"According to our monitor, members have reported like-for-like falls of over 30% when compared to the same week in 2017, as retail outlets were forced to close and supply chains disrupted."

Retail Ireland called for cross-governmental approach to ensure preparations are in place for similar weather events in the future.

"Government should be complimented for its proactive response during Storm Emma, but retailers should also be praised for their resilience in ensuring shelves remained stocked with key staples and supply chains withstood pressures during a period of unprecedented demand," said Mr Burke.

Retailers put the safety of their staff first and took the proactive decision to close stores as we moved into red weather warning territory.

"We must, however, take learnings from what went wrong and put in place systems to ensure we are better placed to manage future such events. The retail sector stands ready to play its part in that review and future preparation exercise".

The Retail Ireland report was one of a number of economic snapshots published on Monday.

With Emma long gone, in April consumer spending increased by almost 4% on last year, according to Visa's Irish Consumer Spending Index.

The index recorded an almost 11% increase in online sales last month - the strongest ecommerce performance in eight months in Ireland.

Expenditure across hotels, restaurants and bars also recorded a notable 10% increase in April.

Philip Konopik, the country manager of Visa in Ireland, said: "April's return to growth in spending is much welcomed after the slowdown brought on by Storm Emma in March.

That said, the rise in consumer spending was modest, with sectors like food and beverages impacted by Easter falling earlier in the month this year compared to the same period in 2017.

Elsewhere in the economy, construction activity also rose in April, according to the Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index.

Simon Barry, chief economist at Ulster Bank in the Republic of Ireland, said: "The latest results of the Ulster Bank Construction PMI survey show that Irish construction firms experienced strong, and faster, rates of expansion in April.

"Following a weather-related slowdown in March, the headline PMI picked back up to a very elevated reading of 60.7 in April, in the process reaching a three-month high."


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