Retailers blame ‘alarmist’ Met Éireann weather warnings for drop in footfall

Retailers have blamed “alarmist” Met Eireann weather warnings for deterring people from hitting the high streets to do their Christmas shopping.

Industry representative group Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) said trading over the Christmas period had been challenging.

“It very much looks like the Irish Retail Industry will trade on par with Christmas 2017, at best,” the group said.

However, Met Eireann has strongly defended its position stating it issues warnings for public safety, and they are based “on the best scientific evidence available at the time”.

The row has kicked off as online shopping has been growing rapidly – and that’s hitting Irish retailers with 70pc of online spend going to foreign businesses.

The rise of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, discount events held before Christmas, has further encouraged shoppers to go online, REI said.

“Footfall in November is reported to have declined by as much as 5pc like for like as Irish consumers decided to shop online rather than visit the high street. Black Friday has had a very detrimental impact on general footfall and retail sales in the weeks before and after the event. Footfall recovered in December but hit the buffers last weekend as weather warnings kept shoppers at home.

“The Irish retail industry has never experienced such volatility. It is impossible to predict what each given week will bring.”

Group Chief Executive, Retail Excellence, David Fitzsimons, added: “The most common comment from retailers is that the weather alert issued by Met Éireann pertaining to weather conditions last Saturday was at best alarmist.

“Most of the country experienced rain and some wind and yet the alert more or less turned off the spending tap, on one of the most important days in the retail calendar.

“We very much hope that the lost spend will make its way into our members tills in the coming days. Met Éireann need to be cognisant of the devasting impact such alerts have on consumer activity.”

However, Joan Blackburn of Met Éireann said warnings are based on scientific evidence available to Met Eireann, and they are continuously updated when required and they are up on their website directly.

She told “We issue warnings for public safety and for nothing else, on the best scientific information available to us at the time.

“The weather last Saturday was very bad. There was very heavy rainfall and there was strong wind. There was a potential for some extreme winds, which clipped parts of the south coast and some parts of southern coastal counties did experience some extreme winds.

“Everywhere experienced windy conditions and it was extremely wet. There was a lot of flooding around last Saturday as well.

“Our rainfall warnings were in operation for yellow rainfall and a yellow wind warning countrywide. They were upgraded to orange for wind for a short period in different areas during Saturday.

“It was communicated that it would be for a short period.

“The potentially for really extreme winds was there on Saturday,” she said.

Ms Blackburn added that public safety is part of the remit of Met Eireann.

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