DECEMBER RETAIL SALES were up this weekend for the first time in five years.
Retail Excellence Ireland said that the sales increase is predicated on improved consumer confidence following Budget 2013; a period of clement weather in the run up to Christmas 2012; the scheduling of Christmas day on a Tuesday; and an increase in Northern Irish consumers shopping south of the border.
Though it predicted that yesterday was going to be the busiest trading day in the last five years, REI said that the stores weren’t as manic as expected, and could keep up with consumer demand. However, it said that it was still a productive day.
Many retailers are reporting the fact that shoplifting activity is noticeably higher this year than prior years.
Sales are being driven in many instances by pre-Christmas reductions, particularly in ladies’ departments. Department stores are marginally up and many operators have now gone into sale. “The overall feeling is that the Budget at the beginning of the month had a very temporary effect and people quickly acclimatised to that, determined that it would not spoil their Christmas,” said REI.
Menswear gifting has lifted trading activity in this sector in the past week. Overall, menswear is level on last year but the premium menswear brands appear to not be selling through.
Stores which stock wedding attire are reaping the benefits of Christmas weddings and many of the rural stores had a bumper few days just prior to the last posting day before Christmas to Australia.
Consumer electronics continue to perform well, with some operators reporting double digit growth on last year. DVD box sets have sold through, as well on-trend games and consoles. Books have struggled while music is down on last year.
“The migration of spend on-line and the entry to the market by the grocery multiples have left the specialists with less market share to enjoy,” noted REI.
Phone sales are reported to be steady, with many retailers initially concerned that they would be unable to service demand in the final weekend of Christmas.