Preliminary figures from the Central Statistics Office have shown that the overall volume of retail sales, excluding motor sales, was up 0.8% in December.
Retail sales of food, beverages and tobacco were also up 0.2% from November in terms of volume and up 1.1% on the same period last year. In terms of value, sales of food, beverages and tobacco remain unchanged from November and up 2.2% on December 2011.
IBEC Group, Retail Ireland yesterday welcomed the rise in retail sales but said the recovery is very fragile and should not be taken for granted. Retail Ireland Chairman Frank Gleeson commented: "After the anecdotal positive reports over Christmas, the official statistics released today are welcome. They show a large fall in car sales, but once these are factored out, sales rose slightly. While these are relatively positive results, total retail sales are down about 25% since the start of the recession. We have a long way to go before the retail sector returns to health."
He continued: "We had a rise in retail sales in December of 2011, only to see those sales fall back again in the first half of last year. To ensure this is not repeated, it is vital that Government take steps to boost consumer confidence and reduce retailer costs. Otherwise we could have a return to falling spending, with a damaging impact on the domestic economy and employment."
Retail Excellence Ireland also welcomed the figures but expressed concern for a number of retail sectors, which continue to struggle: "The annual increase in December 2012 against December 2011 is a welcome development, especially in a month where a significant proportion of a retailers annual turnover is transacted," said David Fitzsimons Chief Executive, Retail Excellence Ireland. "However the figure does hide the fact that many retailers entered sale pre-Christmas, thus while turnover were marginally up, margin is most certainly down.
"We are also very concerned for a number of retail sectors, which continue to struggle, including those reliant on a functioning residential housing market. Retail closures announced in recent weeks prove the distressed nature of the industry and we call on landlords to take a common sense approach to rent levels."