Retail groups look to the positives as December sales figures released

Retail Ireland has welcomed today's retail figures from the CSO, but warned that the recovery remains very fragile.

The IBEC group highlighted the annual growth in the volume of sales for department stores, supermarkets and food in the CSO's Retail Sales Index, which also showed falls in furniture and lighting, and clothing and footwear.

Overall, the volume of December's retail sales, when motor sales are excluded, was up 0.8% compared to December 2011.

"After the anecdotal positive reports over Christmas, the official statistics released today are welcome," said Retail Ireland chairman Frank Gleeson.

"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.

"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."

David Fitzsimons chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland said: "The annual increase in December 2012 against December 2012 is a welcome development especially in a month where a significant proportion of a retailers annual turnover is transacted.

"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."

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