Wednesday 24 January 2018

The Punt: Under-35s living a very different life

Michael Noonan
Michael Noonan

The Punt sees many metrics presented as a 'barometer' for the health of the economy. However, we're not sure what the rude health of high-end electronics tells us.

Last week, the head of Sony Ireland told journalists that the sale of top-end '4K' televisions -- at over €4,300 each -- had surpassed expectations. A similar story is heard among retailers of other high-end electronics gadgets. Phone shops are struggling to keep up supply of €700 iPhone 5S phones, currently the most expensive handset on the market. And general tech outlets say that the most in-demand tablet is another expensive option, Apple's iPad mini 'retina' (from €400 upwards).

Not to be outdone, camera shops say that €1,000 models such as Fujifilm's X100S are the ones they struggle to keep in stock due to demand.

What does all of this say about the health of the economy? Is Ireland back in the money, as these consumer snapshots suggest? The Punt thinks that the reality is more layered.

There is an emerging consumer class of debt-free professional people under the age of 35 who have well-paid jobs and no (or low) mortgages. Unlike their parents, their wealth is more about retina screens and fibre broadband gadgets than €5,000 golf club memberships or Bulgarian holiday apartments.

So while older workers fret about pensions and a property market 'recovery', these modern professionals are enjoying their life with high-end, occasionally productive toys. Is this a 'barometer'? We're not sure. But it's not bad for retailers.


Noonan pushes default setting

The Punt would like whatever Michael Noonan is having.

The famously relaxed Finance Minister surpassed himself yesterday when he described the recent 12.2pc increase in Dublin property prices as "quite small''. With recorded prices rising at 3.9pc in September, the Punt wonders what would sort of increase would get the Minister excited.

Mr Noonan, right, gave some insight into this thinking when he added yesterday that "we need property prices to be restored" and called for price rises to reach the cost of rebuilding. Leaving aside the Government's crazy wage agreements with the construction sector, the Punt wonders whether Mr Noonan really believes that this point has not yet been reached.

The real problem, of course, is that the State has become an enormous property owner thanks to the National Asset Management Agency and its ownership of AIB and Permanent TSB.

It is not difficult to see why Mr Noonan is relaxed about increases that benefit the Exchequer and many traditional Fine Gael voters but is it not dispiriting to see State money being pumped into Permanent TSB to fund people living outside Ireland who want to invest here? The tragedy is that Mr Noonan had fresh ideas to prevent future bubbles while in opposition. Now that he is in Government he appears to have adopted the default position of finance ministers though the decades: do everything you can to push up prices regardless of the inevitable consequences.


Brewing up a green tea storm

THE PUNT has a love/hate relationship with our drug of choice -- the humble coffee bean. Starbucks may be a much-abused multinational but it is one we are eternally grateful for at airports or other locations that require both caffeine and broadband to be tolerable. So we would have loved to see the company's latest marketing gimmick in our Christmas stocking this year.

The gimmick in question is currently only available in the States, where it sold out an impressive six seconds after launching -- a limited-edition gift card costing $450, which grants the recipient $400 free credit and automatically entitles them to free refills on coffee and tea and a host of other benefits. Four hundred quid worth of coffee plus free refills -- that's a lot of java.

We hope the Butler brothers, who took over control of Ireland's Starbucks outlets last year, take note. Following a deal signed last year they now operate 27 of the coffee shops in the Republic. But we have a bone to pick with the Butlers. Despite our love affair with caffeine, The Punt tries to exercise restraint now and then. We've taken to ordering green tea on occasion. But Starbucks on Westmoreland Street in Dublin was sold out of green tea for five consecutive days last week. Very naughtea.

Irish Independent

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