New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the volume of retail sales rose by a stronger than expected 0.8% in April on a monthly basis due to stronger sales of electrical goods and in department stores.

The CSO said there was an increase of 5.1% in the annual retail sales figure. 

If car sales are excluded from the figures, they show an increase of 0.6% in the volume of retail sales in April when compared with March 2016. The annual figure saw a rise of 3.6%. 

Sales of electrical goods rose by 8% in April on a monthly basis, while department stores sales grew by 3% and furniture and lighting sales increased 1.7%. 

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were books, newspapers and stationery, which fell by 6.7%. Sales of hardware, paints and glass were 3.5% lower, while clothing, footwear and textiles sales slowed by 2.3% in April.

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were books, newspapers and stationery, which fell by 6.7%. Sales of hardware, paints and glass were 3.5% lower, while clothing, footwear and textiles sales slowed by 2.3% in April.

Commenting on today's figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said that although retail sales remain erratic on a monthly basis, the underlying trend is positive. 

"While most attention was on cars last year and will be again in 2016, personal spending in other areas has picked up in recent months and is becoming more broad-based. This can only be good news for retailers and employment prospects in the sector," the economist said. 

He said that very low deposit-interest rates and increased disposable income lead to higher personal spending this year, as should the improving labour market. 

"However, political uncertainty both at home and in the UK may weigh on spending patterns in the second quarter, with early indications pointing to lower growth in the April-June period than in January-March," he added.