Retail sales rose sharply in January amid strong car sales at the start of the year.According to figures released by the Central Statistics Office, the volume of sales rose 4 per cent compared with the previous month, bringing the annual rate of 7.3 per cent.
This is the biggest monthly rise for 12 months. However, when motor sales are removed, the monthly rise was just 0.3 per cent bringing the annual rise to just 6.3 per cent.The volume of motor sales increased by 6.7 per cent, compared with January.
The value of retail sales, which takes prices into account, showed a monthly increase of 3.9% and an annual rise of 8.5%.
The seasonally adjusted data also show a 7 per cent fall in the volume of department store sales. However, sales of DIY-related material including hardware, paints and glass surged by 17.5 per cent.Bar sales grew by 1.5 per cent last month, and the annual growth in the sector was 1.5 per cent.
Chief economist with Ulster Bank Pat McArdle said, "January was the third weak month on the trot for retail sales but the overall picture was saved by the motor trade which had a cracking January."
He said, "Persistent interest rate increases, high energy prices and the absence of a feelgood factor have sapped confidence and dampened the influence of an expansionary budget and curbed the spending potential of released of SSIA moneys.Although an acceleration in spending may yet materialise, a few more months like this will force Ulster Bank to pare back its consumer spending estimates for 2007."