Retail sales held steady last month following a lacklustre Christmas, with shop owners upbeat about rising footfall in store as online retailers’ share of sales halved since the peak of the pandemic.
ales were up 3pc in volume terms compared with January 2022, with bars, furniture, fuel and clothing leading the charge.
Meanwhile, the proportion of sales made online fell to 5.6pc in January, down from 6.3pc in December.
That is half the rate it was in January 2021, when there were economy-wide restrictions in place – good news for bricks-and-mortar sellers.
The volume of retail sales rose 0.1pc in January, compared with December, the Central Statistics Office said, a turnaround from the usual new year trend.
But the rise comes after sales were flat during the busiest time of the year and fell last November.
Despite slightly higher volumes, the value of sales was down 0.2pc in January, pointing to cash-strapped shoppers switching to lower-priced items as inflation bites.
Furniture and lighting saw the largest monthly volume gains in January, at 28pc, while clothing and footwear sales were up 26.5pc.
Volumes were down 20.4pc in bars as people stayed in after the holidays. Department stores saw a 5pc dip compared with December.
Falcon AM, the asset manager for the Blanchardstown shopping centre in Dublin, said the data was “promising” and said the centre hit its highest monthly January footfall in six years.
“We have seen some promising movement around retail sales here, particularly across the clothing, footwear, textiles and furnishings categories,” said Bernard Nulty, Falcon AM director. “These positive indications align with what we are seeing on the ground at Blanchardstown Centre.
“Nationally, the proportion of retail sales transacted online also remains down post-Covid – which has been reflected in performance across physical stores since reopening after lockdowns.”
The share of business premises standing empty reached a record 14pc in 2022
Retailers have struggled as Covid lockdowns, rising energy prices, persistent inflation and changing shopping habit hits margins, with the sector accounting for a large share of commercial vacancies last year.
The share of business premises standing empty reached a record 14pc in 2022, according to location data specialists GeoDirectory, with services and retail making up the bulk of the decrease in occupied premises.
“There have always been business closures,” said Dara Keogh, GeoDirectory’s chief executive.
“What is not happening is more businesses opening to replace them. What we are seeing is a slow tick-up of commercial vacancies. This is the real economy. When you walk down your street and see vacant shops, that’s when you feel it.”
Consumer prices rose by 7.8pc between January 2022 and January 2023, previous CSO data shows, a slowdown on the previous month. But housing, energy and food prices are still rising in the double digits, eating into household disposable income.
Inflation in the eurozone is even higher, meaning borrowers are almost guaranteed another half a point rate hike when the European Central Bank meets on March 16.