Retail spend bounce ‘underwhelms’

By Eamon Quinn

The growth in consumer spending “underwhelmed somewhat” last month, even as shoppers were able to get out and spend following the havoc caused by Storm Emma in previous months, a leading survey has found.

Visa’s Irish Consumer Spending Index showed that following the weather-hit tepid growth of 1.5% posted in March, overall spending climbed 3.8% in April. 

And with overall spending marking its 14th straight month of expansion, online spending played an outsized part.

Its survey measures all types of spending in the Republic, not just on cards but online, in cash, and in purchases made by cheque across all types of retailers.

But Paul Smith, economics director at research firm IHS Markit, which helps compile the index, suggested that though spending had bounced back from March, that growth undershot expectations.

“The pace of expansion underwhelmed somewhat, with the underlying trend suggesting that overall spending is rising at its lowest pace since around the turn of the year,” he said.

“Nonetheless, the environment for further growth remains positive, with joblessness falling, confidence strengthening and business activity continuing to rise,” he said.

Spending in hotels, restaurants, and bars climbed, and household goods also enjoyed strong growth from a year earlier.

An early Easter meant that spending on food and beverages didn’t grow in April.

Separately, Ibec industry group Retail Ireland said though grocery stores had fared well as consumers stocked up for the storm, its first-quarter survey showed many shops had suffered badly during the weeks of disruption caused by Storm Emma. 

It wants to help the Government to review ways to minimise disruption to retail supply chains in future storms.

Elsewhere, there was much better news for the output of construction last month, as it posted a “sharp” growth in output following the weather disruption of earlier months.

The pace of growth quickened in two of three areas tracked, in commercial and housing output, but slowed in civil engineering, according to Ulster Bank.

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