Saturday 20 January 2018

Consumer spending rises across the board

Shane Tubrid's furniture business is growing fast, like the rest of the industry writes Gavin McLoughlin

Shane Tubrid of Furniture by Design at his workshop in Fethard, Co Wexford. He's seen business double this year. Photo: Patrick Browne
Shane Tubrid of Furniture by Design at his workshop in Fethard, Co Wexford. He's seen business double this year. Photo: Patrick Browne
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

"Last year there was a pick-up - but this year it's probably doubled," according to Wexford-based bespoke furniture maker Shane Tubrid.

"People seem to have a little bit more of a luxury spend, they're still being cautious but I find they're doing a little bit more research into what they want... and they are willing to spend a little bit extra.

"I set up the business in September 2009 - and from then to 2012 there were people spending, but they didn't want to show that they were spending as such. People I think initially bought furniture to do the job, and now they have the money to get what they want."

Tubrid's experience chimes with the Visa Europe Irish Consumer Spending index released on Tuesday, which showed that in May spending on household goods was up 8.4pc on the same month last year.

"An awful lot of work comes through the website, usually they say to me that they're looking for a dining table or they're looking for a sideboard or a cabinet, something that'll fit their needs.

"I always ask them have they a budget, they rarely do. It doesn't usually come into it as such, but when it comes to price, people are well able to argue, there's always a bit of play with it.

"Usually they come to me with an idea and I put together four or five different ideas for them. We go back and forth two or three times to finalise the design and then it gets signed off on."

Tubrid mainly works with hardwood, most of which he has to import. The weakness of the euro against the dollar has meant his input costs have been rising in recent months. "There's not much Irish hardwood readily available to build furniture with, so it does make it more expensive."

For the last couple of years, Tubrid has absorbed the rising costs, but with the uplift in demand he's now trying to make a little bit extra from customers.

In that sense his experience conflicts with the Consumer Price Index released by the CSO on Thursday, which showed the price of furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance fell 2.3pc year-on-year in May.

Visa Europe country manager Conor Langford said Visa's data shows that both new and existing homeowners are increasing their spending on items like furniture and electrical goods.

"Despite the introduction of new regulations on residential mortgage lending, there is still a rise in loan approvals and there are reports of increased credit demand from furniture and home retail operators in the first quarter of the year.

"As a result, we are seeing more home makeovers as new owners kit out their property and existing homeowners are taking a more positive outlook by replacing old household items."

Markit senior economist Paul Smith said spending Growth in May was broad-based and likely to be sustained at strong rates this month. May's data showed spending in the food and beverages sector rose particularly sharply, with growth of 9.7pc.

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