Re­tail sales stall amid fears Black Fri­day will hit Christ­mas trade

Irish Independent - Business Week - - IN PERSON - El­lie Don­nelly and Louise Kelly

RE­TAIL sales were flat in Oc­to­ber – head­ing into the busiest weeks of the year for the sec­tor – and there are fears Black Fri­day and early sales will neg­a­tively af­fect trad­ing in De­cem­ber.

The vol­ume of re­tail sales was flat in Oc­to­ber com­pared to the month be­fore, al­though sales are up 5pc ver­sus the same time in 2017, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Cen­tral Statis­tics Of­fice (CSO).

Pub sec­tor sales were down 4.6pc dur­ing the month, de­spite strong tourism num­bers in­clud­ing a surge in busi­ness vis­i­tors.

De­spite the lat­est fig­ures, Mer­rion Cap­i­tal econ­o­mist Alan McQuaid said the re­tail sec­tor is volatile but the un­der­ly­ing trend is pos­i­tive.

“Even with the fluc­tu­a­tion in con­sumer sen­ti­ment, over­all per­sonal spend­ing has been pos­i­tive in the past cou­ple of years, boosted by the in­crease in the num­bers em­ployed in the coun­try,” Mr McQuaid said.

The head of re­tail­ers’ trade body Re­tail Ire­land, Tom Burke, said the shift to au­tumn sales has be­come a “dou­ble-edged sword” for the sec­tor that is dis­tort­ing the tra­di­tional Christ­mas trade.

“Last year re­tail sales for De­cem­ber were down 2pc on Novem­ber in what should have been the busiest pe­riod for re­tail­ers, in ad­di­tion, such events mean that re­tail­ers mar­gins have be­come more squeezed. We are hop­ing we don’t see sim­i­lar this year.”

He added that he would not read too much into the re­tail sales fig­ures for Oc­to­ber.

“Thus far the trend has been very pos­i­tive this year, we are hop­ing these fig­ures are just a blip and that it is not the start of a trend.”

The ner­vous­ness echoed rat­ing agency Moody’s which last week said events like Black Fri­day are neg­a­tive for re­tail­ers be­cause they bring for­ward pur­chases from closer to Christ­mas, of­ten at lower mar­gins.

In the pub trade, Brian Fo­ley, of the Vint­ners’ Fed­er­a­tion of Ire­land, said that there was “no cause for con­cern” at the lat­est fig­ures be­cause they just re­flected one month, and were com­ing of the back of a very strong sum­mer. Sep­a­rate data yes­ter­day showed Ire­land wel­comed 13,600 busi­ness del­e­gates dur­ing Oc­to­ber. That gen­er­ated an ad­di­tional €20.8m in eco­nomic rev­enue, ac­cord­ing to Fáilte Ire­land.

Fáilte Ire­land CEO Paul Kelly said that busi­ness tourism “con­tin­ues to be fun­da­men­tal” in the coun­try’s sea­sonal growth in tourism.

This is be­cause con­fer­ence del­e­gates tend to ar­rive out­side of the sum­mer months.

Over­all, trips to Ire­land were up 7.1pc in the first 10 months of 2018 com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2017, with to­tal vis­its now at over 9.1 mil­lion for the year.

Ir­ish res­i­dents’ trips over­seas dur­ing the same pe­riod in­creased by 4pc.

The to­tal num­ber of trips to Ire­land

Squeezed mar­gins:

Re­tail Ire­land chief Tom Burke is hop­ing this De­cem­ber will be bet­ter than last year’s

by over­seas res­i­dents in­creased by 7.3pc to 933,500 in Oc­to­ber – an over­all in­crease of 63,200 com­pared to 12 months ear­lier.

Trips by res­i­dents of Bri­tain in­creased by 0.1pc to 322,700, while trips by res­i­dents of Euro­pean coun­tries other than Bri­tain in­creased by 5.4pc to 328,600 dur­ing Oc­to­ber.

There was a big jump in trips by res­i­dents of US and Canada to Ire­land dur­ing the month, which in­creased by 20.2pc to 228,900.

Mean­while, the to­tal num­ber of over­seas trips made by Ir­ish res­i­dents dur­ing Oc­to­ber in­creased 6.2pc to 716,300.

“We are com­ing to the end of what has been the best year ever for the Ir­ish tourism in­dus­try,” Mr Kelly said.

“This year the sec­tor has again made an­other sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in its con­tri­bu­tion to the Ir­ish econ­omy, and I’m de­lighted to see such stel­lar growth con­tin­u­ing into Oc­to­ber.”

He added that feed­back from the in­dus­try is that Oc­to­ber has been a “par­tic­u­larly strong month” in terms of per­for­mance. TIF­FANY & Co fell the most in al­most four years af­ter re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion ef­forts hit a snag in the third quar­ter. The lux­ury jew­eller re­ported lower spend­ing by tourists, sap­ping mo­men­tum ahead of the crit­i­cal hol­i­day pe­riod. Third-quar­ter same-store sales rose 3pc on a con­stant cur­rency ba­sis, short of es­ti­mates of 5.6pc.

lux­ury jew­eller hit by slump in sales to tourists

Big Ap­ple:

Tif­fany and Co on the cor­ner of 57th Street and 5th Av­enue in Man­hat­tan, New York

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