Post-lockdown spending spree as consumers flock to shops and hair salons

Bank of Ireland debit card data reveals a spike in social spending in May

After months of lockdown, Irish consumers went on something of non-essential spending spree last month.

Bank of Ireland debit card data reveals a spike in social spending in May as consumers flocked to clothes shops, barbers and beauty salons, spent more in restaurants and bars, and began to book accommodation and airline tickets for the first time in months.

The bank said spending on social activities rose by 13 per cent in May amid the easing of restrictions and was now just 1 per cent below pre-Covid levels.

Spending on clothes rocketed by 56 per cent as people availed of popular shopping outlets opening their doors once again.


Personal grooming retail also saw an uplift, with barber shops and beauty salons reopening for the first time in several months. Consumer spending in this area rose by 712 per cent.

Restaurant spending rose by 22 per cent in May, Bank of Ireland said, as “dine-at-home”options continued to grow in popularity, while spending on fast-food options also grew by 22 per cent.

Bars “had a healthy level of business despite indoor service remaining closed”, the bank said, with a 40 per cent monthly rise.

Airline spending rose by 145 per cent as more and more people were vaccinated and booked a foreign break.

Domestic tourism hot spots will also be popular this summer judging by the volume of tents bought in May, with spending rising by 11 per cent, it said.

Accommodation spending rose by 88 per cent, albeit from a low base.

A third of all social spending was carried out by people aged between 18 and 35, the bank said.

"May saw consumers preening and prepping for the brighter days ahead," Christian Pierce, group chief data and analytics officer at Bank of Ireland said.

“It’s not surprising that barber shops were packed out in May, nor that airline spending has ticked up considerably,” he said.

“But it is noticeable that while some sectors are back at their pre-Covid levels, others have some ground to recover including accommodation and air travel,” he said.

“As commercial restrictions loosen further, hospitality and entertainment are springing back to life, as more and more of us get out and about. With people looking to spend some of their lockdown savings, hopefully businesses nationwide can make up for lost time,” he added.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times