Ireland’s consumer confidence was again boosted in Q1 2014 reaching an index of 82 according to the latest figures from Nielsen. This is five points higher than the previous quarter (Q4 2013) and a significant seventeen points higher than the same period last year. This latest wave of research comes on the back of Ireland’s exit from the EU/IMF aid programme and the country’s full return to sovereign debt markets for the first time since the euro-region’s crisis began in 2009. Reaching such a significant milestone is sure to have had a positive impact on the nation's optimism.
The European average rose two points on the previous quarter standing at 75 with consumer confidence increasing in 21 of 32 markets. The biggest increases came from some of the region’s lowest index performers; including France (59), Greece (53), Portugal (51) and Spain (61). The UK score increased three points to 87.
More positivity regarding job prospects and readiness to spend
Encouraging news also as the nation's unemployment rate continues to fall and is at its lowest rate in more than four years, only marginally above the euro zone average. Ireland was among the most notable job optimism increases on the latest results, along with Switzerland, Austria, Greece and Estonia. In Ireland, those who felt job prospects were good or excellent increased six percentage points on the previous quarter to 32%. While those who feel it is a good time to buy the things they need and want also increased to 33% (up four percentage points).
Job security remains a key concern
Despite this positivity we still have our worries and job security continues to top the list with 17% saying this is their top concern. This is followed in importance by increasing utility bills (14%) and debt at 13%. Work/life balance increased significantly on our list of concerns this quarter with 9% saying it is their biggest concern (compared to 5% in Q4 2013).
Saving strategies continue to be entrenched
Little change was recorded on household saving strategies this quarter with 75% of Irish respondents saying they have changed their spending habits to save (down three percentage points) compared to the European average of 62%. Ireland continues to rank highly in terms of those ‘switching to cheaper grocery brands’ at 68% (the European average is 50%) and ‘cut down/buy cheaper brands of alcohol’ at 36% (the European average is 21%). While 26% say they have no spare cash once essential living expenses are covered.