Irish retail sales rose by 7.4% month-on-month in April, the final month of a strict lockdown, and were up by 90.1% compared with the same period a year ago when the economy was subject to similar restrictions, Central Statistics Office (CSO) data showed on Friday.
The CSO said that caution should be exercised when interpreting the annual change as it compared with a historically low base. However, it noted that sales volumes were 7.1% higher than the same month two years ago, before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ireland has begun to gradually unwind coronavirus restrictions, and separate data from the Central Bank showed that spending using debit and credit cards increased by 5% in the week to 23 May, the first week all shops were allowed to fully open their doors.
Commenting on the release, Stephanie Kelleher, statistician, said, "This annual increase is the highest on record, but caution should be exercised when interpreting the annual change as the comparison is with a historically low base."
"Comparing April 2021 with the same period two years ago (April 2019) shows the volume of Retail Sales increased by 7.1%," she added.
Providing further analysis of the figures, Kelleher noted that in April 2021, the list of essential retail allowed to remain open was broader than was the case in April 2020 during the first lockdown.
By the third lockdown, consumers and retailers had become more accustomed to the restricted market conditions.
"The sectors with the highest annual increases were Furniture & Lighting (+694%), Motor Trades (+576%) and Hardware, Paints & Glass (+166%). While these annual increases look impressive, they simply reflect a recovery from the lows of last year," she said.
"The Food Business Sector remained open throughout and their annual increase was more modest - Non-Specialised Stores such as Supermarkets (+3.2%) and Food, Beverages & Tobacco (Specialised Stores) (+9.7%)," she added.