The resilient Irish: ‘In the last 10-15 years we have been through an economic crisis, a pandemic and now an inflationary crisis’

Pollster predicts ‘age of the hyper-thrifty consumer may soon be upon us’ as cost-of-living increases continue to bite

“An essential snapshot of the behaviour, attitudes and feelings of the population annually” is how Luke Reaper, the managing director of Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) describes the research published today.

Much of the information in the 2022 edition of the survey makes for somewhat depressing reading and points to “an age of hyper uncertainty”, with more than 90 per cent of respondents highlighting the higher cost of living and 78 per cent expressing concern about what the current spike in prices might mean for the country’s future economic wellbeing.

Reaper is not overly downbeat, however. “Our resilience as a nation is evident with over half believing that their greatest achievements are ahead of them. Resilience is a key word to describe Irish people – in the last 10-15 years we have been through an economic crisis, a pandemic and now an inflationary crisis.”

He believes that in recent years Ireland has been “on a journey of self-discovery and direction [and] there are ‘pandemic benefits’ that we’re keen to hold on to, even as the pressure of returning to normal intensifies”.

He points to personal connections, increased time with family, enjoyment of the outdoors and our generally improved quality of life as things people will seek to maintain.

“It feels like we’re inhabiting a world more anxiety-ridden and unpredictable than it has seemed in recent memory. Rather than a blip in the timeline, the Covid experience points to the inherent instability of the world we live in. The Ukraine war and inflationary cycle has further reinforced the latter point.”

He believes that as a nation “we have the same desire for stability and things being settled as we did in 1991. We still have the same desire to try new and different things, to be fashionable and to keep looking young as in 1991.”

However, he argues that Irish people “have become savvier in terms of buying behaviour, with a greater marketing literacy. We have a willingness to spend more to get the best, but also shop around more for the best bargains.”

He suggests that such behaviours “will likely come in handy once the dust settles on rising costs”.

Reaper suggests the full economic implications of the period we’re living in “haven’t quite hit us yet – we can all see those trains coming down the tracks [and] the age of the hyper-thrifty consumer may soon be upon us. However, it will be a ‘tale of two halves’, with luxury still having a clear role, albeit less conspicuous, and positioned as value.

“In addition, the experience of the pandemic has ignited a strong desire to ‘make up for lost time’, especially amongst younger cohorts. How all this pans out alongside the cost-of-living increases remains to be seen, but many of us feel that we need or deserve these things, so we’re compartmentalising our anxieties and worrying about that later.”

And when will later come? Next autumn “might be the point where things are challenging – there may be increased tension between the haves and have-nots, increasing money pressures, consumers strongly cutting back [and] delaying important financial commitments”.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast