Q1 retail sales subdued following Storm Emma disruption

Monday, 14 May 2018
The retail sector suffered sales losses exceeding 30% in some instances during the week of Storm Emma, according to a new report from Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the sector. In its latest Retail Monitor, published today (see attached), the group said that after a strong start to 2018, retailers have struggled to make up for the lost sales which ran into the tens of millions of euros industry wide.

Retail Ireland Director Thomas Burke said: “Our members enjoyed a strong start to 2018 with a buoyant economy and growing consumer disposable income fuelling strong sales. However, the benefit of that increase was largely wiped away during the last week of February, as Storm Emma caused widespread disruption and closures over four key trading days (Thursday-Sunday), and longer-term supply chain and consumer disruption which ran into a full week.

“According to our Monitor, members have reported like-for-like falls of over 30% when compared to the same week in 2017, as retail outlets were forced to close and supply chains disrupted.”

Retail Ireland worked closely with the National Emergency Coordination Group over the course of the extreme weather and has called for an all of Government approach to ensure preparations are made now for the next such event.

Mr. Burke said: “Government should be complimented for its proactive response during Storm Emma, but retailers should also be praised for their resilience in ensuring shelves remained stocked with key staples and supply chains withstood pressures during a period of unprecedented demand. Retailers put the safety of their staff first and took the proactive decision to close stores as we moved into red weather warning territory.

“We must, however, take learnings from what went wrong and put in place systems to ensure we are better placed to manage future such events. The retail sector stands ready to play its part in that review and future preparation exercise”.

Key retail trends set out in the Retail Ireland Monitor include:

Supermarkets and convenience stores:
Storm Emma was a leading factor in significant growth in both sales value and volume in the supermarkets and convenience stores sector in the first quarter of 2018, as consumer stocked up on essentials. Total sales values increased by 4% in Q1-2018, compared to the same quarter last year, and total sales volumes were 6% higher compared to Q1-2017.

Department stores:
Department stores had an indifferent start to the year with the bad weather seriously affecting sales and footfall in Department stores at the beginning of March. Total sales values grew by a mere 1% in Q1-2018 compared to Q1-2017, and total sales volumes increased by 5% over quarter one 2017.

Fuel stations:
Prices at the pump increased by 1% in the first three months of 2018 compared to Q4-2017. On an annualised basis, prices at the pump increased by 1% in Q1-2018 versus Q1-2017. Volumes were significantly impacted by Storm Emma at the end of February and start of March, and the drop-in fuel sales volumes during that week was not recovered in subsequent weeks.

Q1-2018 was a relatively solid quarter for the pharmacy category despite total sales values decreasing by 1% compared to the same quarter last year, as total sales volumes increased by 3% versus Q1-2017. The key areas driving growth in quarter one was a prolonged cough and cold season, coupled with a healthy performance in core toiletries.

Fashion, footwear and textile stores:
Total sales values declined by 1% and total sales volumes increased by 3% in quarter one, when compared to the same quarter in 2017. Sales of fashion and footwear continue to fluctuate, affected by issues such as bad weather, increased competition from online UK shopping platforms and currency fluctuations.

DIY and hardware stores:
Quarter one proved a rollercoaster quarter for the DIY and garden sector. The cold conditions in January and February proved a boon to sales in the insulation, heating, fuel and plumbing categories. The in-home DIY and enhancement categories also fared well with a solid performance in the painting and decorating sector. The sales progress in the first two months was wiped out by Storm Emma, with the situation exacerbated by a very poor March for garden centre sales.