New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the volume of retail sales increased by 14.3% in December when compared to November after the temporary reopening of large parts of the economy last month.

On an annual basis, the CSO said that retail volumes were 8.2% higher in December compared with the same month in 2019. 

Retail sales had fallen on an annual basis for the first time in six months in November after a Covid-19 shutdown of large parts of the economy led to a 4.7% drop.

Commenting on today's figures, the CSO said that while the volume of sales in bars increased almost four-fold in December compared to November, it represented just over one third of the volume of sales in December 2019. 

December also saw sales of clothing, footwear and textiles soar by 160.9%, while Furniture & Lighting sales jumped by 63.5%. Sales in department stores increased by 42.6% and car sales were up 26.8%, while fuel sales rose by 11.1%.

The CSO noted that retail sales in December were 10.4% higher than in February before the Covid-19 pandemic crisis started. 

The sectors which were lower than February included bars (-62.4%), books, newspapers and stationery (-11.1%), department stores (-4.5%) and fuel (-0.7%). 

All other sectors had sales greater than they had in February 2020, it added. 

Today's figures also show that the proportion of retail sales transacted online (from Irish registered companies) decreased to 5.6% in December from 12.4% in November as shops re-opened from Covid restrictions.

The Government has extended the current lockdown, its strictest since the first one last spring, to March 5 and has said it will only lift the measures on a slow, phased basis with non-essential retail likely to reopen ahead of the hospitality sector.