With the Irish economy set to contract for the second consecutive year, many shoppers are turning to their local shoe store for their next pair of footwear.
According to figures released by the National Retailers’ Federation (NRF), over a third of sales were made online last year, with online sales down from 27.5% of all retail sales in 2015.
The figures are a clear indication of the growing popularity of online shopping in Ireland, with the Irish market set to become one of the fastest growing in Europe next year.
Online sales rose by 5% to €5.5 billion, with an increase of 11% from €5 million to €6.6 billion in the 12 months to the end of March.
Online is a particularly popular channel for shoppers to find and shop, with a third more online shoppers than offline shoppers.
Online sales accounted for over a quarter of all the footwear sales in Ireland in the twelve months to March.
However, with over half of all online sales being made by customers from outside of the country, it is worth remembering that online shoppers are a minority, and that they are largely influenced by what they see online.
“Online sales are a small percentage of the total retail sales, so while online sales are growing, they are not the driving force behind the overall growth in the Irish retail market,” says Michael Smith, director of research at the NRF.
Online shopping has been linked to a range of trends, such as an increase in sales in the fashion and lifestyle sector, with retailers looking to boost their brands with online purchasing.
Online retailers are also looking to increase their share of the retail market, with 40% of online sales in 2019 being made in Ireland.
In addition, there are more online retailers than offline retail outlets in the country.
“Online retailers such as Foot Locker and The Foot Locks are taking advantage of the growth in online shopping and are taking over the majority of retail outlets, with this being the case with more than half of the online sales,” says Mr Smith.
Online shoppers tend to spend their money online, but also take advantage of social media.
“It’s becoming more common for people to take advantage at home by shopping online and to post their purchases and other items on social media,” he says.
“These types of shopping are very appealing to consumers who don’t normally shop in the physical retail space.”
Online shopping continues to attract customers from around the world, with China becoming the largest source of online shoppers last year.
A significant portion of the global market for shoes was represented by online sales, with only a handful of countries accounting for a significant portion.
In 2016, the European Commission said that the number of people who use online shopping services had increased from 2.6% of the market in 2014 to 3.5%, which is a huge increase for an industry that was already experiencing rapid growth.
Online retailing is growing at a rate of over 20% a year, but is projected to increase to over 20%, according to the NRI.
“The online shopping industry in Ireland has seen a rapid growth in recent years, with both online and offline retailing expanding exponentially and this growth is reflected in the increase in retail sales,” said Mr Smith in a statement.
“This growth has been driven by an increased demand for online shopping, as well as the growing appeal of a range on-line brands and the increasing number of products available online.”
The National Retailer’s Federation estimates that there will be a 20% growth in sales within the next three years, which would put the number in the UK as the country with the fastest growth, with sales expected to be up 30% in 2020.
Sales of footwear are also expected to continue to grow in the future, with shoes increasing by 5.4% in 2019, according to figures from the National Federation of Independent Business.
This is due to a combination of a stronger domestic economy, a growing number of consumers and the rising popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook.