Retail sales climb as car sales surge

Latest CSO figures show retail sales in volume terms rose by 7.5 per cent in annual terms in April

Retail sales continued to grow in April despite the inflationary squeeze as surging car sales boosted the sector.

The volume of sales rose by 2.8 per cent on a monthly basis and by 7.5 per cent compared with a year ago, the Central Statistics Office said on Monday.

However, when volatile motor trades are excluded, sales rose by just 0.5 per cent in the month and fell by 0.4 per cent in the year to April.

Consumer spending has remained surprisingly strong despite the strain on household budgets from higher inflation.


The latest figures show car sales in volume terms jumped 18.1 per cent year on year in April, while sales of books, newspapers and stationery were up 5.8 per cent. Fuel sales, meanwhile, rose by 5.5 per cent.

The cost of petrol and diesel will increase later this week as the Government reverses the reduced excise rate on fuel. The excise on a litre of petrol will climb 5 cent while the price of diesel will go up by 6 cent.

On the flip side, the CSO numbers show sales of food, beverages and tobacco in specialised stores dropped 7.8 per cent while furniture and lighting was down by 6.4 per cent. Hardware, paints and glass fell 2.9 per cent.

European Central Bank policymakers are worried that the initial surge in energy prices, which has now softened, has nonetheless bid up prices in other areas such as food and services and may keep inflation elevated for longer. Spiralling food prices have taken over from energy as one of the main financial pressure points.

According to the CSO, the largest monthly increases in retail sales were recorded in bars (14 per cent), motor trades (10.3 per cent) and clothing, footwear and textiles (9.5 per cent). The biggest monthly declines were in other retail sales (-21.1 per cent), furniture and lighting (-4.7 per cent), and department stores (-2.7 per cent).

The CSO said the value of retail sales (in price terms) grew by 6.2 per cent in the month and by 13.9 per cent in the 12 months from April.

The agency also noted that the proportion of retail sales transacted online (from Irish registered companies) was 5 per cent in April compared with 5.8 per cent in March, 4.9 per cent in April last year, and 10.1 per cent in April 2021 at the height of the pandemic.

The latest figures do not reflect online sales with overseas businesses, such as Amazon, which accounts for the lion’s share of online transactions here. The CSO does not have the legal right to request data from these businesses and, therefore, the total level of retail sales occurring online is not known.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times