14% fall in consumer spending

CONSUMER markets remained very weak in quarter two of 2009 but pub sales fared better than most, a new report has found.

Despite a modest lift in consumer confidence from April to June, this has had little impact on sales.

The Consumer Market Monitor findings show consumer spending fell 14% from the final quarter of 2008 to the first three months of this year.

By comparison, personal savings have increased from 3% of disposable income in 2007 to 10% in 2009, reflecting a “precautionary response to the rapidly deteriorating prospects for employment and incomes,” the monitor said.

Retail sales value, excluding the motor trade, decreased 43.9% for the year ending May 2009, while one of the hardest hit sectors has been the motor trade, down 42.5% for the year to the end of May.

Household equipment was down 27%, clothing and footwear 26.2%, department stores 17.6%, fuel 21.5% with newspapers and stationary falling 14.3%.

Bar sales held up better than expected with a fall of just 11.4% in volume and 9.8% in value according to the survey, jointly produced by UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and the Marketing Institute of Ireland.

According to the report, the sales decline was at record levels across all sectors. The figures were compounded by the collapse of the motor trade and the rise in cross-border shopping.

Personal sector credit declined for the fourth consecutive quarter in Q1 2009, with the pace of decline becoming more rapid.

Property lending accounted for 61% of all personal sector credit as the number of loans paid out for home purchases declined 39% in the first quarter of 2009 against the previous quarter.

When compared to the same period in the previous year, the fall was 52%.

The annual rate of increase in mortgage lending declined to 2.6% in May, the lowest level on record.

Credit card debt decreased slightly, by 0.8%, between April and May 2009, while payments on credit cards have exceeded indebtedness in every month of 2009 to date, resulting in a net reduction of €23 million in credit card debt.

As in past downturns, food has held up best with sales off 4.6% by volume and 6.5% in value, with some of that dip possibly due to price cuts, the report said.

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