Bar sales jump in February but remain 15% lower than pre-covid levels

Bar sales jump in February but remain 15% lower than pre-covid levels

Retail bar sales saw the largest monthly and yearly increases compared to other retail areas. Photo credit: Johnny Green/PA Wire

Sales in pubs and bars have recorded the largest annual increase in February compared to other retail areas but are still lagging behind pre-covid levels, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

Provisional retail sales index figures from February show that the total volume of overall sales rose 0.7% compared to January — the second monthly increase in a row — and by 3.6% compared to February 2022.

Volume of sales in bars and pubs recorded the largest month-on-month and annual increases, up 4.7% and 12.8% respectively.

However, the CSO noted that the annual increase should be taken with “some caution” as it compared to a low base in 2022. It also said that bar sales remain 15.2% lower than their pre-covid levels of February 2020.

Other areas which saw a large increase month-on-month included hardware, paints, and glass, up 2.5% and car sales, up 1.7%. Car sales were up 9.1% in February last year with sales of clothing, footwear, and textiles also up 6% year-on-year and fuel up 4.1%. 

Sales of furniture and lighting saw a drop of 11.4% compared to January with sales of books, newspapers and stationery also dropping 5%.

Department store sales dropped 8.7% compared to last year with food, drinks, and tobacco speciality stores also recording a 7% drop in sales.

Discretionary spending

Barry Whelan, chief executive of Excel Recruitment, said that while February saw an uptick in sales, the dip in certain retail sectors suggests that “hard-pressed consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending as they struggle to make ends meet”.

“This pullback on discretionary spending is taking its toll on retailers and bars”.

Stephanie Kelleher, statistician with the CSO, said the value of retail sales was 1.8% higher compared to January and 11.1% higher than a year earlier.

“Excluding Motor Trades, the value of retail sales rose by 0.9% in the month and rose by 7.9% on an annual basis,” she said.

Of all sales from Irish registered companies, only 5.3% took place online — which is up from the 4.5% recorded in February 2022 but still much lower than the 11.8% recorded in February 2021.

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