What have Irish consumers been buying in lockdown?

Bank of Ireland debit card data shows more buying home fitness and gaming products

There was an increase of 122 per cent in PlayStation spend, while Xbox increased by 86 per cent. Photograph: Bloomberg

Irish consumers have been spending more on home fitness products, gaming and streaming services since the Government’s coronavirus restrictions were introduced, while spending on air travel and accommodation has plummeted, new data shows.

An analysis of debit card transactions by Bank of Ireland tracks debit card spend since March 12th and compares it with the average spend prior to restrictions being implemented from January 1st to March 11th.

It shows that retail spend during the period was buoyed by online activity and a 37 per cent increase in grocery shopping.

While overall debit card spend was down 25 per cent, retail spend shifted online with significant increases in gaming, clothing, electronics, household appliances, home fitness products and streaming services.


Streaming spend

Streaming services were up 27 per cent and Disney+ streaming spend increased by over 500 per cent. There was an increase of 122 per cent in PlayStation spend, while Xbox increased by 86 per cent.

Reflecting the unprecedented changes to public life, spend on air travel, passenger travel and accommodation dropped more than 80 per cent. Restaurant spend was down 69 per cent as the recent trend towards a food delivery model continued.

Bank of Ireland director of products John O’Beirne said the changes to consumer patterns reflected the “new normal” in Irish society since the Government introduced restrictions on movement.

“Covid-19 has changed our lives immensely, impacting health, social interaction, travel, and also affecting the livelihoods of many,” he said.

“Our data, which tracks debit card spend in March once the schools closed, demonstrates the importance of card services in the current environment, with retail activity driven by online and grocery sales.

“Shoppers are responding to the new normal, adapting behaviour and spend to their personal circumstances.

“As we continue to travel less, we are looking for more ways to keep ourselves and our families engaged, and spending habits are clearly reflecting that trend.

“Home exercise and entertainment are being prioritised, while spend on travel and restaurants has dropped significantly in line with the required restrictions.”

Mr O’Beirne added that a “significant proportion” of the bank’s customers seeking mortgage breaks were doing so online.

Extremely busy

“The people and technology supporting payment services are the engine-room for retail sales and our colleagues are working 24/7 to keep cards, payments, online and a range of other services running,” he said.

“Our digital channels are extremely busy, with a significant proportion of those applying for a mortgage break doing it through our website. We will continue to ensure these critical services are resourced appropriately, providing stability for consumers and businesses to transact during this challenging time.”

Separately, digital bank N26 said there was a decrease of 56 per cent in ATM transactions since the lockdown to deal with Covid-19 began.

It said e-commerce now makes up 7 per cent more of the average consumer’s spend than it did four weeks ago, while consumer spending has increased by an average of 16 per cent per transaction.

In weeks one and two of the lockdown, grocery stores were the strong players, along with Amazon, Apple.com, and its various subscription offers, such as iTunes, iBook, and iCloud.

This shifted in weeks three and four to include media-service providers such as Netflix, as well as food delivery services such as Deliveroo, both now among the top 10 merchants. Travel, urban mobility, nightclubs and out of home entertainment fell well down the list.

With reduced outside-shopping time and very few shopping options available, payment volumes fell less than the number of transactions, with people making fewer purchases but spending more each time.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter