Purse strings have tightened on hundreds of thousands of household budgets across Northern Ireland as the recession bites.
But as politicians warn more “pain” is to come, some, it appears, haven’t even experienced a financial twinge. There are still those who have disposable income, not just to splash on necessities, but also life’s luxuries.
In a lavish affair costing thousands of pounds, Audi will tonight host a five-hour party to launch the car maker’s new Belfast Centre in the Titanic Quarter.
Around 350 VIPs, including former Manchester United legend Denis Irwin, athlete James McIlory and presenter Patrick Kielty will attend the glamorous party.
They will be entertained by BRIT-award nominated band The Feeling and Sophie Ellis Bextor as well as enjoying food made by chef Brian McCann from top Belfast restaurant Shu.
The opening of the brand’s new HQ comes after global banking group Citibank announced the |creation of more than 400 jobs here, also in the Titanic Quarter, which seemed to defy the current economic gloom.
On display during the gala event will be two new Audi models in Northern Ireland, the A and the A7 Sportback.
The A1, costing £13,420, is the smallest Audi to date and described as “a big idea condensed”.
And the A7 Sportback is the luxury marque’s new five-door coupe.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Richard Eakin, managing director of Belfast Audi, said the reason for such an extravagant affair is to celebrate the success of the company, which, with the new centre, will create 115 new jobs.
“It’s the culmination of six years of planning and development,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“It’s also a celebration of the success of Audi.”
Mr Eakin said the reason for hosting such a party with high-profile guests was because: “It adds to the prestige, sophistication and excitement of the occasion.
And they plan that despite the hard financial backdrop, sales will continue to grow.
“Belfast Audi (including Portdown Audi) plan to achieve significant targets in 2011 — 2,200 new cars, plus 1,400 approved used cars,” he said.
”From January to October 2010, Audi UK sales have increased by 10.6% (compared to the same period in the previous year) while general market growth has only been 4.2%.”
Consumer expert Dr Chris Strugnell told the Belfast Telegraph there are still people who remain untouched by the recession.
“Audi must have done their market research to think there is the market here, or they wouldn’t have spent that kind of money on the launch or the new centre,” he said.
Dr Strugnell, editorial board member of the International Journal of Consumer Studies, added: “There are people out there still with money to spend,” he said.
Dr Strugnell, however, added: “This isn’t the majority of consumers. Most are worried about their mortgages and interest rates going up.”