Online spending over took face-to-face spending in March

By Pádraig Hoare

Spending on food, drink, hotels rose sharply in March while online spending overtook face-to-face for the first time in six months, a Visa monthly survey shows.

Despite that rise, Visa’s Irish Consumer Spending Index showed an overall slowdown in growth in March due to the severe weather, with overall spending up 1.4% year-on-year, the slowest increase since last October.

Spending on food and drink was up 8.5%, the fastest rise in over a year, boosted by a relatively early Easter and a spike in sales the week after Storm Emma.

Consumers spent more than €20 extra than usual the week after the snow as households restocked supplies, the index showed, spending in hotels, bars and restaurants rose more than 7% during the month.

Visa country manager for Ireland, Philip Konopik said: “March’s figures highlight the impact of Storm Emma, with the bad weather preventing some face-to-face spending on the high street and influencing the general slowdown of expenditure growth.”

Storm Emma also took its toll on construction in March, with slower expansions in activity, new orders and purchasing, according to Ulster Bank.

The monthly construction purchasing managers index (PMI), which is widely seen as one of the major health barometers for the building industry, shrunk to 57.5 in March from 59.2 the month previously.

Any reading over the neutral 50 points indicates a sector in growth mode.

Ulster Bank said growth was limited by heavy snowfall but that output continued to increase at a sharp pace amid reports of greater new projects.

Chief economist for the Republic at Ulster Bank, Simon Barry said: “A number of the survey’s main metrics — including the headline activity and new orders indices — did register some slippage last month reflecting weather-related difficulties. And snow disruption also proved problematic for supplier deliveries which were reported as being subject to longer lead times.”

He said at 57.5 in March, the headline PMI “continues to point to robust growth, albeit not quite as rapid as in February”.

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