Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Retail sales (volume) did surge this December

Statements from Retail Excellence Ireland provided some contrasting views of the level of retail sales in December.  On December 24th it was reported that:
Retailers see fall in Christmas trade compared to 2012
while just a few days later a report from another REI statement was published under the following headline:
Retailers see strong start to post-Christmas sales
Unlike December 2012 when they got it all wrong, CSO data released today shows that REI’s take on December 2013 was pretty accurate: consumer purchases increased but they waited until the lower prices in the sales to do so. 
Here is the December 2013 Retail Sales Index excluding the motor trades.
RSI Dec 13
The increase in the volume series is pretty clear and the December reading is now higher than at any point going back to mid-2010, seasonally adjusted.  The value series did increase in December but by a much smaller amount.
If we look at the unadjusted series we can see concentration of retail sales in December of each year.
RSI Unadjusted Dec 2013
In December 2013 the unadjusted volume series was close to the levels seen in 2006 and 2008, though nine percent below the 2007 peak.  The drop in the December readings for the value series was much more pronounced with a clear gap emerging in December 2009.  The value series in December 2013 was 18 percent below the 2007 peak.
December 2013 volume was 5.5 percent higher than the December 2010 trough but the value series only shows a 3.6 percent increase.  We are beginning to buy more but are not having to spend as much doing so.
Returning to adjusted series here are the annual changes excluding the motor trades.
RSI Dec 13 Annual
The annual changes in Q3 were negative but the increases in the latter part of the year pushed them back into positive territory.  It remains to be seen whether the increase in December was a once-off splurge or reflects an emerging frugality fatigue amongst consumers who are going to continue to spend more. 

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