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Information note on the implications of COVID - 19 on the Retail Sales Index January 2021

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Retail Sales Index

Data for the Retail Sales Index (RSI) is collected monthly from a sample of 1,600 retail enterprises. Despite difficult circumstances, many retailers have continued to supply us with information each month and we wish to thank all survey respondents for their ongoing support.

COVID-19 restrictions – January 2021

On 30th December 2020, the Government agreed to move the entire country to full Level 5 lockdown restrictions from midnight until 31st January 2021 at the earliest. All non-essential retail and services had to close from 6pm on 31st December. People had to stay at home except for work, education or other essential purposes. Further measures were announced on 6th January including the prohibition of click-and-collect services for non-essential retail, however, they were allowed to continue on a delivery basis.

Response Rates

Despite temporary closures and on-going difficulties faced by many businesses, the response rate for the January 2021 RSI was broadly similar to the corresponding month last year.


The Retail Sales index is based on a matched sample of enterprises in consecutive months. Imputation is not normally carried out for smaller enterprises which have not returned data. In each sector several key companies are identified based on their significance to the sector (turnover). If key company data is not received on time for the Provisional results, then an estimate is made using trends shown by other similar companies and from other available data sources.

Auxiliary data sources have also been used to validate the results for January 2021 at retail business sector level. The CSO is satisfied that this range of information supports the trends estimated in the Retail Sales Index for January. The auxiliary sources used for imputation and validation purposes included:

  • Published media and research reports on the retail sector in January 2021 
  • Government guidelines and announcements on restrictions and essential retail/services under the different Levels (1-5) of Ireland’s Plan for Living with Covid-19
  • Retailers’ websites, for information issued by non-responding companies about closure, continuation of trade, online trade, etc
  • Published data on credit card and debit card spending in January compared to other periods
  • Data from other CSO outputs
  • Sectoral data on the numbers availing of support schemes such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Seasonal Adjustment

The spending patterns since March 2020 have been an exception to the existing seasonal patterns. Seasonally adjusting the Retail Sales Index will be challenging until the scale and shape of the impact COVID-19 has on the time series is better understood. The seasonal adjustment models have been reviewed each month since March 2020 and have been changed as appropriate. Users should be aware that further observations, as data becomes available in the months ahead, and revisions to the seasonal adjustment models may result in revisions to the seasonally adjusted series.

Thanking Respondents

The CSO wishes to thank all those enterprises who supplied their retail sales data for January 2021 and urge them to continue to do so for February and future months. Even if turnover is nil or very low, such information is still required to measure the trend in sales in each retail sector. The CSO will continue to monitor the range of supplementary information to derive the best estimate for retail sales in February. The February Retail Sales Index is planned for publication on 29th March 2021.