A Brexit breather has calmed Irish shoppers' nerves

New figures from Retail Ireland illustrate sales grew in the first quarter of the year.

By Laura Roddy Reporter, Fora

IRISH CONSUMERS HAVE decided to take out their purses and spend again as the uncertainty of what will happen after Brexit has been pushed back until October.

According to Retail Ireland,  the Ibec group that represents the sector, the extension to the negotiations “seems to have calmed nerves somewhat”.

It also reported that sales figures for the first quarter of the year have increased by 4.7%, aided by a mild late winter and early spring.

The report explained that the main reason for a drop in consumer sentiment up until this point is largely related to the ongoing Brexit negotiations – which created caution in the Irish consumer who was unsure of how its outcome would affect their personal finances. 

Speaking to Fora, Thomas Burke, the director of Retail Ireland, said: “The challenge for our member companies and the industry in general is that their consumers are listening to this (Brexit news) on a daily basis.”

He said when the discussion was around a hard Brexit and the damage that would have to the Irish economy, it “bred a degree of caution into Irish consumers” which was seen at the time.

“From mid-February and March onwards there has been a cooling of that conversation – there is certainly less of it in the media, and I think that’s now reflected in an uptick in consumer confidence,” Burke said. 

This isn’t the only factor of why sales increased, according to Burke, who noted it is allied with the fact that the economy is going well, people have more disposable income and there are record numbers at work. 

Burke believes that the fear surrounding Brexit could rear its head again towards the end of August,and early September but hopes a solution is found before then.

Discounted goods

The report also indicated that there was an increase in the sales of personal computers and electrical goods, the first quarter of the year compared to this time last year.

This can be partially attributed to a lack of weather events such Storm Emma this year that disrupted the retail sector, according to the report. 

Burke said the figures show that these sales were led by “heavy promotions and deep discounting” in the sector. 

“Irish consumers are almost addicted to value and bargains now and that is challenging from a retail perspective … Irish retail prices are back at 1999 price levels so we have seen consistent falls in the last 10 years,” he added.

Fashion and footwear

The first quarter also saw an increase of 6% in the sale of fashion and footwear. The report said that up until this quarter the sector had experienced  fluctuation due to issues like weather, increased competition from online UK shopping platforms and changes in the value of sterling. 

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