CONOR POPE, Consumer Affairs Correspondent - Irish Times.com
THINGS MAY be looking increasingly bleak on the economic front, but at least consumers here can take some comfort from the fact that they are back to being the best in Europe at something: Christmas shopping.
According to the 10th annual Deloitte spending survey, published this morning, the Republic’s shoppers will once more top a Europe-wide festive shopping table, having lost out to Luxembourg for the last two years.
However, the average spend per household continues to fall, and will be €943 this year, down from €1,020 in 2010 and a reduction of €411 since 2008.
The most frugal folk in Europe this festive season will be the Dutch, who plan to spend €260 per household over the coming weeks.
The Deloitte survey, which was carried out in the second and third weeks of September, shows that of the €943 Irish households intended to spend, €520 will go on gifts, €258 on food, and €165 on socialising.
Consumers are also predicting they will spend 9.5 per cent less on gifts, 5.5 per cent less on food and nearly 4 per cent less on going out.
“Following a steep decline of 10.6 per cent in spending last year, it’s encouraging for retailers that the drop in spend is not as significant as last year,” said Deloitte director Richard Howard. He said that despite the financial pressures faced by many, “the desire to embrace Christmas and enjoy the festivities has remained strong”.
However, “the prudence and increased frugality observed in previous years remains a feature of Irish spending”, he added.
Unsurprisingly, 59 per cent of respondents said the main reason for spending less was the economic downturn and the belief that it will get worse, while 33 per cent said it was because they were in debt.
“It’s interesting to note that over three-quarters of Irish respondents believe that the economy is in recession, which highlights how the negativity of the past few years has pervaded the mindset and behaviour of Irish consumers. The Irish economy has in fact achieved moderate growth in 2011,” Mr Howard said.
Economic growth had not affected consumer behaviour or sentiment. “Be it buying fewer gifts, buying more own-brand products or an increased focus on utility and durability, retailers must meet the needs of an increasingly experienced and savvier Irish consumer, one which is here to stay. Consumers now expect more for less.”
The survey results show that Irish consumers allocate their budget differently depending on gender and age.
Women tend to spend more on gift items, while men prefer to buy food. Older people are more likely to devote their Christmas budget to food items, while younger people are more likely to spend on gifts. Just over half of consumers here will use both offline and online channels to search for purchases.