Return of outdoor dining drives retail sales growth

The CSO noted that last month’s retail sales volumes were 13.4% up on pre-Covid levels seen in June 2019.
Return of outdoor dining drives retail sales growth

The return of outdoor hospitality has heavily boosted retail sales, according to the CSO.

Retail sales surged — both in volume and value terms — last month, heavily driven by the partial reopening of restaurants and pubs for outdoor service, CSO figures show.

Provisional data for June show that consumer spending volumes grew 3.3% compared to May and surged 10.6% higher than June of last year.

In value terms, retail sales in June were 4.2% higher than in May, while nearly 14% more money was spent compared to June of last year.

The latest June figures are, however, heavily skewed by a very weak 12-month comparison given the level of pandemic restrictions that were in place last year.

That said, the CSO noted that last month’s retail sales volumes were 13.4% up on pre-Covid levels seen in June 2019.

The pub and bar sector showed the greatest growth in sales volumes last month, by far, followed by books and newspapers, clothing and footwear, and department stores.

Outdoor dining on Marlboro St, Cork City. Picture: Damian Coleman
Outdoor dining on Marlboro St, Cork City. Picture: Damian Coleman

The year-on-year comparison is heavily skewed by the 184% surge in pub and bar sale volumes. In June of 2020, restrictions were beginning to be loosened following Ireland’s first bout of lockdown restrictions.

While these annual increases are significant, caution should be exercised when interpreting these changes, as the comparison is with a low base from a year ago," the CSO warned.

Non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen on June 8 last year, with shopping centres opening a week later. In June of this year, all retail was open for the entire month. 

Similarly, while pubs and restaurants reopened in early June this year for outdoor service; last June only saw pubs open for food service at the end of the month.

How sustainable the latest pick-up in bar sales turns out to be remains to be seen. Spending volumes in pubs and bars last month lagged pre-Covid June 2019 levels by as much as 48%, the CSO said; while other victims of the pandemic — notably non-essential retail — managed to beat 2019 levels.

The CSO also noted a continued reduction in online sales as shops reopened.

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