Belfast Telegraph

Confidence among shoppers at highest level for three years

By David Elliott

Consumers in Northern Ireland are more confident than at any time in the last three years, according to new research from Danske Bank.

It reported a strong rebound in the number of people expecting their finances to improve in the coming months and also revealed that a growing number of people are considering a spending spree.

Males were more optimistic about their finances than females and the "south region" – Lisburn, County Down, Newtownards, Newry & Mourne, Banbridge, Craigavon and Armagh – showed the highest level of confidence of all consumers throughout Northern Ireland, as did the 25-34 year-old age bracket.

"This latest rise in consumer confidence reflects the general improvement in economic conditions that we have seen over the last few months and augurs very well for the economic climate in the months ahead," Danske Bank's chief economist Angela McGowan said. "Consumer confidence levels are a strong driver of economic activity and growth, so a recovery in this index is an important indicator."

Danske Bank's survey of consumer confidence looks at the financial position of local households and their expectations for the year ahead. The study was carried out by Millward Brown in June 2013 with 1,000 people and the bank said it's statistically representative of the Northern Ireland population with a variance of plus or minus 3%.

The latest report shows that the overall confidence index increased by 13 points to 117 in quarter two, a nine point increase on the same period last year.

The boost to expectations for spending was one of the stand-out results from the survey with 18% of those surveyed expecting to spend more on so-called "big ticket" items during the next 12 months and a fall in the number of people expecting to rein in their spending to 33% from 41%.

Despite the news, some retailers will benefit more than others. "Although the latest survey may provide a little comfort to high street retailers, the reality remains that spending patterns have shifted and online sales continue to grow while high street footfall declines," Ms McGowan said. "Even when local confidence and spending intentions start to creep up, high streets across Northern Ireland will still have to adapt to the dramatic changes in consumer behaviour that are currently going on".

When it come to work, there was a small improvement with 8% of people expecting their job security to improve compared to 5% previously.

"An improving economic environment is essential for raising living standards for everyone in Northern Ireland," Ms McGowan said. "As the economy is only now turning a corner; it would be most unfortunate if Northern Ireland's political tensions were allowed to stifle local investment and future job opportunities".

Belfast Telegraph

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