Irish consumers are now the most anxious in Europe for the second time in three months, according to Deloitte Ireland's latest State of the Consumer Tracker, as confidence in shopping in-store has plummeted by 12%.
Anxiety levels increased by 15% among Irish consumers compared to the previous wave of research, conducted four weeks earlier. The next-most-anxious nation in Europe is the UK, followed by Italy and Poland.
The monthly survey tracks Irish consumers' attitudes towards personal wellbeing, financial concerns, travel and hospitality, transport and retail. The most recent data was gathered between 30 December and 6 January, directly following a surge in Covid-19 case numbers and the country's return to full Level 5 restrictions.
Daniel Murray, Partner and Head of Consumer at Deloitte Ireland, said, "With spending intent down across the board following heightened Christmas spending, the introduction of a new lockdown and the banning of click-and-collect services, retailers and consumers face a tough few weeks ahead. The findings of the State of the Consumer Tracker throughout 2020 highlighted how sensitive consumer confidence is to changes in the external environment, and the latest rise in Covid-19 case numbers has left a wound which will take some time to heal.
Mr Murray said, "While Irish consumers are once again the most anxious in Europe having last held the position back in October 2020 the research shows us that this is driven in the most part by health concerns, with Ireland scoring comparatively well in terms of financial concerns. Many have lost their jobs or had their incomes negatively impacted and many remain in a state of financial uncertainty. However, looking at the national picture against that of our European neighbours, it appears that the supports introduced by the government have cushioned the blow to a certain extent. This could mean that spending will start to pick up again once the worst of this new wave of Covid-19 has passed, as it did following the first two waves in 2020, which would be welcome news to retailers."
The survey found that consumers' concern for their personal physical wellbeing decreased by 1% to 52%, while concern for the health of their family members increased by 3% to 66%. Concern around returning to the workplace was up by 5% to 37%, with concern about job loss down slightly by 1% to 31%.
Confidence in engaging in person-to-person services decreased by 9% to 47%. 32% said they would feel safe going to a restaurant, down 8% since the last wave of research, while confidence in shopping in-store decreased by 12% to 52%.
There was a decrease of 8% in consumers' intention to spend on utilities and a 26% decrease in spending intention on groceries following the Christmas period. Decreases were also recorded in spending intention on discretionary items such as clothing and footwear (down 42%), restaurants and take-aways (down 40%) and alcohol (down 39%).
As non-essential retail was again forced to shut amid rising Covid-19 case numbers, 51% of consumers reported being more concerned about the security of their personal data now that they are shopping more online.
When asked about the sources of their anxiety, 84% of Irish consumers cited Covid-19, with 40% citing financial stress and 28% citing their job or employment situation.