Retail sales dipped marginally last month but still recorded significant growth on a year previously, latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show.
The volume of retail sales decreased by 0.2% in February compared to January but was nevertheless more than 8% higher than in the same month last year.
The decrease comes following a 3.3% rise in the opening month of the year compared to the December figure.
Stripping car sales from the latest figures, the volume of sales actually increased by 0.7%, however, with an annual increase of 4.8%.
The strong pharmaceutical sector again led the way in terms of month-on-month growth (4.5%) while fuel sales, boosted by falling prices, climbed 3.3%.
Consumers seemed less likely to splash their cash in bars and department stores in February, with falls of 1.6% and 2.1% respectively.
The value of sales decreased by 0.5% last month compared with January, but remained more than 4% higher on an annual basis.
Again removing motor sales from the equation, there was a monthly increase of 0.4% in the value of retail sales and an annual increase of 0.7%.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association warned retail margins are coming under severe pressure due to aggressive but necessary price-cutting.
“Retail volumes are rising slowly, while prices are continuously being cut just to generate sales. Many SME retailers are ‘ticking over’ at present and are not yet at a point where they can consider investing for growth,” ISME chief executive, Mark Fielding said.
Mr Fielding added that talk of wage increases was premature and accused the Government of exacerbating the situation with its “pre-election rhetoric”.
“The slight recovery being felt in Dublin is not replicated throughout the country and this creates a challenging environment for consumer-facing provincial businesses, and the ability to protect or grow margins through price increases is very limited,” he said.
“Quite clearly there is no room for wage increases in the retail sector and this is a situation that is repeated throughout the entire SME sector.
“The tax and welfare system must be used to put money into people’s pockets, rather than Government ministers encouraging an economically damaging upward spiral in wages,” added Mr Fielding.
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