Giddy punters emerge into daylight but will their wallets open?

Cantillon: Cars among consumer sectors that may be slow to inspire confident spending

Reports from around the country suggesting customers were giddy to be going back to retail outlets once they reopened on Monday will undoubtedly lift the spirits of shopkeepers who have been in a Government-enforced lockdown for the past number of weeks.

But hopes of a swift return in consumer spending are premature. Since the Covid-19 crisis set in, the Government has done its damnedest to scare people into staying at home.

And while its efforts were based on the interests of public health, they have been successful to the point that the population will be nervous about opening their wallets as they look to survive the crisis financially. Particularly those over the age of 70.

202 regs

If you need evidence of how the State’s messaging has worked, look to the motor trade as an example. In normal times, July would see the introduction of the “202” registration, a time when car sales would have been expected to spike.


But those in the business are cautious about the prospects for this year. Mark Whitaker, the chief executive of Cork-based Johnson & Perrott, which sells eight different car brands, told The Irish Times: "A lot of the work done over the summer will be around building a pipeline for 2021."

With that in mind, perhaps now is the time for the Government to examine its public pronouncements and consider changing them. That’s not to suggest it should go down the route of its UK counterparts and advise the general public to “stay alert”, but an easing of the browbeating might just help ease the nerves of the public.

Consumer spending will take time to return. Some carefully crafted language from the Government might help to encourage people to venture outside again and spend some money.