More money and jobs as consumer spending up for 14th month

Consumer spending rose last month, marking 14 successive months of growth as an improving economy continued to feed into jobs and disposable incomes.

The Visa Irish Consumer Spending Index, which measures expenditure across cash, cheques and electronic payments, rose 3.8pc in April compared to a year earlier.

That was an acceleration of the 1.5pc rise seen in March, when spending was hampered by the deluge of snow dumped on the country by Storm Emma.

But the pace of growth last month still “underwhelmed”, according to IHS Markit economics director Paul Smith.

Figures also published this morning from Retail Ireland, a unit of the business group Ibec, show that some retailers suffered sales declines of as much as 30pc during the week of Storm Emma.

Retail Ireland said that after a strong start to 2018, retailers had struggled to make up for lost sales that cost the sector tens of millions of euro.

The Visa index noted that despite the spending rise in April, underlying growth “remains relatively subdued”.

It said the annual rate of spending over the past three months averaged 3.2pc – a slower pace of growth since the start of the year.

But online sales continued to soar. Visa said that e-commerce spending had surged 10.7pc since April 2017. So-called face-to-face spending rose by just 0.3pc year on year during April.

Philip Konopik, the country manager for Visa in Ireland, said the rise in consumer spending last month was “modest”, with sectors such as food and beverages impacted as Easter fell earlier this year.

But spending at hotels, restaurants and bars jumped 9.7pc year on year in April.

In the recreation and culture segment, spending jumped 9.4pc compared to a year earlier.

Paul Smith said he was optimistic for the coming months, despite the performance in April.

“The environment for further growth remains positive, with joblessness falling, confidence strengthening and business activity continuing to rise,” he said.

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