Retail

Irish Consumer Sentiment Falls For Fourth Month In A Row

By Sarah O'Sullivan
Irish Consumer Sentiment Falls For Fourth Month In A Row

Irish consumer sentiment has fallen for the fourth month in a row, as continued pressure on the cost of living weighed on consumer thinking.

According to a report from the Credit Union composed by Austin Hughes, the low sentiment reflected worries regarding household finances.

Inflationary pressures have eased since 2023, and consumer sentiment remains higher than last year.

However, the high cost of living seems to have prompted a renewed sense of ‘feel-bad’ among financially stretched and fragile Irish consumers.

The report was divided into two sections: how consumers are struggling, and what proportion are comfortable, coping, or hanging on.

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Consumer Sentiment Survey

The Credit Union Consumer Sentiment Survey, carried out in partnership with Core Research, showed an index reading of 65.7 for May.

This was down from 67.8 in April.

Hughes notes that, in the index’s 28-year history, there have been just five occasions when consumer confidence fell for four consecutive months.

These are the months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in 2022, the threat of a disorderly Brexit in 2019, two during the financial crash, and one in the wake of the dot-com collapse in 2002.

The report also notes that the fall comes after four successive increases in consumer sentiment from October 2023 to January 2024.

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May’s index of 65.7 remains closer to the long-term average of 84.5 than the all-time low of 39.6, from July 2008.

This indicates that consumers are more downbeat, rather than despairing, at present.

The weakest elements of the index were those focused on household finances, which indicated that consumers were downbeat over how their household costs have evolved in the past 12 months.

‘Month-On-Month Price Increases’

Hughes notes that there was also a deterioration in the consumer outlook for household finances in the next 12 months.

He noted several possible reasons for this.

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“First of all,” he said, “while inflation data for April shows a further easing, there were significant month-on-month price increases in key areas, such as food, drink and clothing prices.

“In addition – excluding volatile airfares and package holiday costs – the annualised increase in consumer prices over the past three months is running at around 5% – a notably hotter pace than the 2.6% year-on-year headline figure for April.”

The data also shows an increase in rents, as well as mortgage rates reaching a six-year high.

High energy costs, despite a drop since last autumn, also negatively impacted consumer sentiment, though the buying climate posted a month-on-month gain for May.

Comfortable, Coping, Or Just Clinging On?

The survey contained an additional question, asking respondents, “How would your household deal with an unexpected financial emergency costing €1,000?”

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Based on responses, the index classed people as comfortable, coping, or just clinging on.

The most common response was that consumers would dip into household savings, placing them in the ‘comfortable’ category.

This is consistent with previous years, though the 2024 result of 39% dipping into savings is the lowest proportion in the five years since the question was first asked.

At the other end of the spectrum, some 15% could be described as ‘clinging on’, as they said that they would not be able to cope with a financial emergency costing €1,000.

This represents a very slight improvement on 17% in 2023, but a clear deterioration from the 10% average of the three previous years.

Approximately one in four consumers could be described as ‘coping’, in that she/he/they could deal with a financial emergency by borrowing from a number of sources, including family and friends.

Some 3% of respondents said that they would likely sell something to deal with a €1,000 financial emergency.

Read More: UK Grocery Inflation Falls Below 3% – Kantar

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