February saw Irish household expenditure grow by 11.3% across all payment types compared with the previous year, as Irish shoppers splashed out on romance, according to Visa Europe's Irish Consumer Spending Index.
This growth is a sharp increase from January’s 7.5%, and is the steepest recorded in the 18 months since Visa began tracking Irish consumer confidence, surpassing the previous high recorded in November of last year.
Increased disposable income and consumer confidence undoubtedly helped boost spending during the month, which also benefitted from an extra trading day due to 2016 being a Leap Year.
Valentine's Day saw the Irish public spending money in a wide range of sectors, purchasing gifts like flowers and chocolates, or on restaurant and hotel bookings.
Based on the average spending price paid on Visa cards for flowers alone, the Irish were one of Europe’s most romantic nationalities this year, spending around €55 for a bouquet. The average price paid per bouquet in the UK and Germany lagged at €47 and €33 respectively.
Spending was not restricted to flowers for Valentine's Day either, as Visa found that the traditional 'dinner and a movie' date proved popular this year too. As has been the case for the last three months, the Recreation & Culture sector registered the sharpest growth, with expenditure for February rising by 21.1% year-on-year.
Further proof of the leisure industry’s recent success was an 18.3% increase in expenditure in the Hotels, Restaurants & Bars category.
The high street benefitted too from the Irish consumer's increased willingness to spend money on discretionary items, registering growth of 9.2%. Meanwhile, e-commerce expenditure continued to see significant expansion, growing by 15.4%.
In fact, all recorded sectors saw better growth in February than in January. Household Goods (up 11.5%) and Transport & Communication (11.2%) were two other sectors to record a double-digit rise in spending, with the latter benefiting particularly from growth at car dealerships and consumers booking trips abroad in greater numbers.
Philip Konopik, Country Manager for Ireland at Visa, commented, "Valentine's Day and the Leap Year helped to maintain the positive increase in consumer spending so far this year, with all sectors of the economy benefitting for the second month in a row.
"The rise in spending was quite diverse with new car sales up 35%1 and items like flowers and jewellery proving popular during the month."
He added, "It was particularly encouraging to see a record increase in high street spending in February as the economic recovery continues to take hold. A clear sign of growing confidence of the retail community was the expansion plans announced in recent weeks by a number of businesses including SuperValu, Maxol and Centra."
Andrew Harker, Senior Economist at Markit noted, "Households in Ireland look to be taking advantage of improving labour market conditions and low inflation to spend on discretionary items.
"This all suggests that the first quarter of 2016 has seen the Irish economic recovery continue apace."
© 2016 - Checkout Magazine by Jenny Whelan.