Irish retailers can expect to see a surge in sales this festive season with both consumer confidence and retailer confidence at a record peak for the first time since the onslaught of 2008’s global recession.
In fact, according to Barclay’s Annual Christmas Survey for 2014, retailers are particularly confident with 70.2 per cent predicting that this year will bring a better financial return than 2013 and that consumers will be eager to spend.
The annual survey, which involves interviewing retailers both in the UK and Ireland, highlighted that 73.4 per cent of retailers expect consumers to increase their shopping budgets significantly, with 51.3 per cent of Christmas gifts to be of a practical nature.
Tara Buckley, director general of RGDATA, said: “There is a very positive attitude towards Christmas this year. Grocery and convenience retailers have already seen a lift in sales and footfall in their shops, and they are really working hard to make sure they deliver exactly what their customers want for Christmas 2014.
“For many shops, especially those outside of the main urban areas, Christmas is still a really important time of the year with regard to the overall profitability of the shop. They need a good seasonal trade to break even for the year or make a profit.”
In commenting on the growth of online sales as opposed to in-store sales, especially in the aftermath of the now infamous “Black Friday”, Tara added: “Independent grocery and convenience shop owners are focusing their efforts on attracting the bricks and mortar shoppers – the good news for them is that three quarters of Irish shoppers say they will do the Christmas shopping in actual stores not online.
“However, no retailer can ignore the growth of online sales and the fact that many consumers are using social media to check out bargains and offers. Many independent retailers are engaged with Facebook and Twitter to tell their customers what’s available in their shops and send out messages about special offers.”
Also sure of a positive spending season was David Fitzsimons, chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland.
In sharing his thoughts, he said: “We are reasonably bullish after seven years of decline. 2014’s Q3 [Retail Productivity Review] was the first quarter that we witnessed light growth in each of the months so that was a good indication. Also, Ireland’s budget which was passed back in November was reasonably more positive in terms of tax reductions, and it put a little bit more money into people’s pockets.
“Of fundamental importance was the reinstatement of the Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients which we believe will be expressed in spending.”
David went on to categorise the Irish retail market into three emerging categories (daytime economy, evening economy and provincial Irish economy) which were all benefitting from the rise in consumer spend indicated by the Q3, albeit in some cases slowly.
“The third provincial Irish economy, which is the rest of Ireland, is trading on par with last year and has been impacted by significant levels of immigration which has happened over the last six or seven years.”
However, one area which David feared would harm local Irish shops was with the surge of online sales taking precedence over buying in-store, “about £4.8billion will be spent online in Ireland this year”, he said.
“An awful lot of that was spent abroad because a lot of Irish retailers are not online ready. To be frank, online across the world is dominated by the big players and they capture most of the market. It is challenging for other retailers to be heard online, but we are hoping to combat that with our new initiative, Small Business Saturday in Ireland.
“We hope that for one day consumers will support their local, independent stores. This would impact local spending, which in turn would be very positive for our economy.”
The Small Business Saturday initiative takes place tomorrow 6 for the first time in Ireland in an attempt to entice shoppers to support their local stores over their overseas competitors.