Wednesday 22 October 2014

Ireland is a spending nation once again as Celtic Phoenix rises

Irish consumers are back in the groove and splashing out on luxury motors, 
five-star holidays and Blue Lobster in some of the country's top restaurants

Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30

Patrick Guilbaud's Michelin-starred Dublin restaurant has reported its best year ever
Patrick Guilbaud's Michelin-starred Dublin restaurant has reported its best year ever

Ultra chic, uber discreet and slightly snooty, dinner at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is an experience

But it is not for the light of pocket.

Tuck in to croquettes of suckling pig, fried quail egg, foie gras, pancetta and red pepper mostardo for starters and then let the belt out a notch for the fish course; poached Annagassan Blue Lobster and tonka and lobster jus.

The meat course might be butter roast Turaine squab pigeon with a smoked garlic, parsley and sunflower seed praline.

And then it's time for dessert.

The whole meal might cost €130 a head and that's without wine,

But if you thought such gastronomic hedonism died with the celtic tiger think again.

The two Michelin star eaterie has just reported its best trading year in its 33-year history and 2014 is even busier, Manager Stephane Robin has said.

That boosted the balance sheet of its holding company Becklock Limited where the board includes business behemoths Lochlann Quinn, Martin Naughton and founder Patrick Guilbaud.

The company's accumulated profits rose from €276,002 to €356,256 in the 12 months to August 31 last year, latest accounts reveal.

Other top Irish restaurants are also booming - further proof that Irish consumers have got their mojo back, spending more for the first time in seven years on top-of-the-range cars, high-end restaurants and foreign holidays.

KBC Bank Ireland Chief Economist Austin Hughes says that more confidence is likely being driven by encouraging developments in the domestic economy including upward movement on property prices and signs of more jobs.

The confidence is evident at the high end of the car market where BMW, market leader of the luxury trade since 2005, last month reported an 8.4pc rise in sales of premium motors and SUVs compared with July last year.

But despite those buoyant sales they are under pressure to retain their position as the top marque at the high end of the Irish motor trade.

That's because Audi and Mercedes have also increased sales and Audi have actually outsold BMW for the last three months.

Overall the Irish car market has had a bumper 2014.

Cars licensed here for the first time last month rose a massive 50pc to 14,047 compared with the same month last year.

Used and imported cars are also being sold in larger numbers. In the 12 months to the end of last month, the number of new private cars licensed here was 76,317. That is almost 30pc up on the year that ended in July 2013.

Visitor numbers to Ireland have risen for the fourth year in a row and, according to Central Statistics Office, there has been a 10.3pc increase in overseas tourists in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year. But at the same time more Irish people are booking foreign holidays, many for the first time since the bust when the "staycation' was the only option.

Leading travel agent John Spollen of Cassidy Travel says that some people are already handling bookings for 2015 while this year the availability of last minute deals has dwindled.

"Travel is back," he said.

The numbers of package holidays sold surged to a high of 1.2 million in 2007.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is more cautious and pointed out that the supply of available holidays was down.

The Association is forecasting single digit growth this year, describing the recovery as a "slow burn"

Meanwhile, the latest report from Wolfgang Digital has shown a massive increase in online spending with Irish companies.

Their Irish E-Commerce Study for the second quarter of this year shows that revenues have increased by 51pc while website traffic is up by 30pc.

The average revenue accrued per visit has grown by 17pc compared to the same period last year.

Consumer confidence rose to a seven-year high in July, according to KBC Bank Ireland and the ESRI. Their Consumer Sentiment Index jumped to 89.4 in July, up from 81.1 in June.

But while sentiment can be fickle there is now real movement in the economy at the high end of discretionary spending suggesting that Irish consumers have got back into the groove .

Increased consumer confidence and bigger spending may have been helped by greater availability of credit.

Sunday Independent

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