New figures show that Irish consumers spent around €5 billion online last year, but almost two thirds of that - about €3 billion - went to retailers outside of the country.

This is according to the latest findings of the latest Consumer Market Monitor, published today by the Marketing Institute of Ireland and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

The monitor reveals that retailing spending overall rose by 7% last year to €40 billion, despite Irish retailers losing at least €3 billion to overseas suppliers through online spending.

Today's research shows that consumer spending in Ireland now growing at a strong pace and continues to be one of the main drivers of economic growth, along with construction. 

It noted that total consumer spending was up 2.8% for the year, while construction grew by an even more significant amount of 4.2%.

The main drivers of this growth are population expansion, along with increasing employment. This is leading to a substantial surge in the amount of disposable income in the economy. 

The research said there has been a marked increase in aggregate disposable income which has increased upwards by about 5% a year in each of the past three years. 

It reached €102 billion in 2017, eclipsing the 2008 peak of €101 billion and it is predicted that disposable income will continue growing in 2018 and 2019 at a similar rate of 5% a year.

"It is great to hear the cash registers ringing again for Irish retailers, and signs are positive for continued growth," commented Professor of Marketing Mary Lambkin UCD Smurfit School. 

But the Professor noted that only 40% of online retail spending goes to Irish websites which is disappointing for indigenous businesses. 

"This is something that can be improved upon, but will require investment in websites and e-commerce platforms, as well as access to decent broadband infrastructure," she added.

Retail Excellence has called on the Government to prioritise introducing retail focused solutions in Budget 2019 in order to protect the industry.

Deputy CEO of Retail Excellence, Lorraine Higgins said, "Retail is evolving to the extent it is now boundary-less and that is precisely what we are seeing with the figures pertaining to online spend. 

"Currently three-quarters of Irish websites are not e-commerce enabled," she said, "which means retailers cannot process payments on their sites so hence why they are missing out on online spend. With over €600 billion estimated to be spent by European consumers over 2018 it is clear that further steps need to be taken to increase funding to get businesses online."