NEW data shows retail sales were stronger in March with the headline figure up 1.7pc in volume terms and 8.9pc compared with the same period last year.
Sales were 7.9pc higher on average than the same period last year.
Excluding car sales, the figure was down 1.1pc in the month but 2.2pc higher in the year. “Core” sales have been higher on an annual basis in nine of the last eleven months, Merrion Stockbrokers chief economist Alan McQuaid said.
“A key issue going forward will be the state of the labour market, and the signs are encouraging on this front as we’ve seen with the most recent official employment data and the Live Register in recent months.”
He added that overall personal expenditure on goods and services for 2013 as a whole was negative again, falling by 1.1pc in real terms, the fourth annual decline in the past five years.
“However, we remain optimistic that buoyed by an improving labour market, consumer spending will this year for the first time since 2010 make a positive contribution to GDP/GNP growth, and the robust data for the opening quarter clearly support this view.”