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Information note on the implications of COVID-19 on the Retail Sales Index November 2020

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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.

Introduction of new restrictions

On midnight Wednesday 21st October, the whole country was placed on Level 5 of Resilience and Recovery 2020 - 2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 and these restrictions were to remain in place for a period of 6 weeks. The Government published a list of essential retail and services that could continue to operate under the new restrictions.

Black Friday

It should be noted Black Friday occurred in the reporting period for December last year and occurred in November this year.

Response Rates

Despite temporary closures and on-going difficulties faced by many businesses, the response rate for the November 2020 RSI was 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 November 2020 at retail business sector level. The CSO is satisfied that this range of information supports the trends estimated in the Retail Sales Index for November. The auxiliary sources used for imputation and validation purposes included:

  • Published media and research reports on the retail sector in November 
  • Government guidelines 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 November 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 November and urge them to continue to do so for December 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 December. The December Retail Sales Index is planned for publication on 28th January 2021.