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We're spending far less on a lot of things - except groceries - during the Covid-19 pandemic

New data published by the Central Bank includes details of card spending and ATM transactions since the beginning of March.

Image: Shutterstock/Gena96

THE IRISH PUBLIC spent €373 million more on groceries in March 2020 compared to the same month last year, according to new statistics released today by the Central Bank.

While spending on groceries and other perishables rose in March as a large proportion of us were told to stay at home with some exceptions, our spending on the likes of transport, accommodation and entertainment dropped sharply according to the figures.

In publishing the data, the Central Bank said: “During this fast-moving crisis, there is a need for timely, high frequency data to better understand the impact of the emergency measures on personal expenditure and economic activity.”

Due to the increase in spending on groceries, the total value of all card transactions in Ireland decreased by just 2% (or €141 million) last month.

However, spending on transport fell 56%, accommodation fell 55% and restaurants dropped by 31% in March 2020 compared to March 2019.  

By the time the stay-at-home order was announced on 27 March, the value of card spending had already declined by over one-fifth since the first week of March, while the value of ATM withdrawals was down over 40%, the Central Bank said.

And, while people were going to ATMs to withdraw money less, they were withdrawing more than usual when they went to them. 

It said: “The average withdrawal increased from €137 in the first week of March to around €178 by the first week of April. In the previous twelve months, the average withdrawal was relatively stable and equated to around €133 per transaction.”

Up to 20 April, the decline in retail card spending had levelled off although spending in retail outlets remains far below normal levels.

Indications are that April could see a sharper fall in total card transactions of as much as 39% lower than the same month in 2019.

The Central Bank added that it hopes to use this data on an ongoing basis to provide an indicator of economic activity and household demand. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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