New Central Statistics Office figures show that retail sales volumes increased 9.1% in August compared with the same time last year - the third month of annual growth in a row. 

Retail sales rose by 1.3% on a monthly basis in August, when the final stage of a cautious plan to reopen the economy was paused, keeping pubs that do not serve food closed until last week. 

Sales in the hardware, paint and glass, electrical goods and furniture and lighting categories all rose by 26% compared to August last year, but bar sales were 43% lower. 

Overall sales volumes fell by a record 44% year-on-year in April and a further 25% in May.

The CSO noted that retail sales in August were 8.9% higher than in February before the Covid-19 crisis started. 

But it said that not every sector has fully recovered with sales in bars down over 42%, while sales of books, newspapers and stationery are 12.9% lower. 

Fuel sales are also down 5.6%, while department stores sales are still 5% below their February level. All other sectors now have sales greater than they had in February.

The CSO also said today that as the volume of "in-person shopping" increased with shops reopening, the proportion of total retail sales transacted online has fallen from the high of 15.3% recorded in April to 4.4% in August. 

Today's figures also show that when car sales are excluded, the volume of retail sales increased by 1.1% in August over the previous month and increased by 6.5% when compared with the same month last year.