Consumer confidence falls again as Brexit uncertainty heightens
Consumer confidence in Northern Ireland fell again in the third quarter of 2019 thanks to Brexit uncertainty and the continued absence of an Executive, according to new research.
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The Danske Bank Northern Ireland Consumer Confidence Index fell to 131 in Q3 2019, down from 136 in the second quarter of the year but above the reading of 123 posted in the third quarter of 2018.
A quarter of people felt their financial position had deteriorated over the past 12 months, while 20% felt it had improved.
Looking ahead, 24% of people thought their finances would worsen over the next year, while just 18% expected their financial position to strengthen.
Danske Bank chief economist Conor Lambe said that the latest fall in consumer confidence can be put down to the "same old culprits" - Brexit and the local political impasse.
"When our survey took place in September, Brexit-related uncertainty was at heightened levels and so the relatively high proportion of people citing the UK's exit from the EU as a drag on their confidence levels was to be expected," he said.
"Some 23% of respondents said that the progress during the Brexit negotiations in recent months had the largest negative impact on how they were feeling, while a further 9% highlighted the UK government's longer-term Brexit objectives as a factor adversely impacting them.
"It's clear that how the Brexit process develops will have a significant impact on consumer confidence levels during the rest of 2019 and beyond. In addition to Brexit, more than a quarter of people pointed to the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont as something which put a dent in confidence in quarter three.
"However, there were some factors which had a positive effect on consumer sentiment. Around one-fifth of people said that rising wages had a beneficial impact on them and 11% of people stated low interest rates positively affected how they were feeling," he added.
"Throughout this year, consumer purchasing power has been relatively robust due to stronger rates of wage growth and more moderate inflation.
"For businesses in consumer-focused sectors, confidence levels will be important when it comes to how willing people are to convert that purchasing power into increases in consumer spending."