ONE of the hottest Aprils on record resulted in people packing into pubs as latest figures show bar sales in the month soared 1.5%.
The warm sunshine also resulted in a 1.4% increase in sales at department stores and a 1.6% hike in the sale of clothing and footwear.
However, fuel sales were down a further 0.2% last month and are now almost 12% lower in the last year.
Overall figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that the volume of retail sales fell by 0.8% last month and are down by 3.9% in the last year.
If car sales are excluded, the volume of retail sales fell by 5% in April 2011 when compared with April 2010, while there was a monthly decrease of 1%.
Retail Excellence Ireland said that the latest figures show the enormity of the challenges facing Irish retailers.
REI chief executive, David Fitzsimons said: “While disappointing, today’s retail sales figures are certainly not surprising. April was the 38th consecutive month of declining sales for the retail industry.
“With sales levels continuing to fall, cumulatively by over 30% since the peak and consumer confidence still at record low levels, the retail industry needs immediate assistance by Government to reduce headline labour and property costs.”
Pharmaceutical and medical sales fell by 7.4%, mainly due to the introduction of the restrictions on the sale of codeine products over the counter.
The fall of 16.2% for furniture and lighting is a reflection of the large scale withdrawal of consumers from big home purchases.
“Action needs to be taken urgently to stem the loss of retail jobs and the closure of stores. The logical ways to keep many struggling retailers in business is to allow market rents to prevail and reform wage setting mechanisms,” said Mr Fitzsimons.
His call was supported by Chambers Ireland which said that central government and local authorities must work together to introduce measures to help retailers survive.
Chambers Ireland chief executive, Ian Talbot, said: “Recent reports of changes to Sunday premium payments, combined with proposals to reduce by half the number of Joint Labour Committees as part of the reformation of wage-setting mechanisms process, is a step in the right direction.
“However, more needs to happen on the local level to help relieve the burden on businesses. This could be achieved by way of reduced local authority rates and charges, and for savings achieved from cost containment measures to be passed back to the hard-pressed business sector.”
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