More and more people in Northern Ireland are losing faith in banks and are seeking alternative financial institutions for financial purposes. This is one of the main findings of a Mintel Report which tracks current consumer trends.

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Irish consumers are still feeling the pressure of the economic
downturn and according to the latest research from Mintel’s
flagship report Irish lifestyles – worryingly, today, as many as
a quarter of (23%) NI consumers saythat they have no money left after
paying bills each month.

Indeed, bills appear to be at the forefront of the mind of the Irish
consumer, with over half of (55%) NI consumers worrying about rising
utility bills while a further 52% worry about rising grocery bills.
Almost one in ten (9%) of NI consumers have bills in arrears. Those
unemployed are almost twice as likely (17%) to have bills in arrears
than those in employment (9%) and a worrying four in ten (37%) of
unemployed consumers claim to have no money left each month after
paying their bills.

David Pasley, Research Manager, Mintel Ireland comments

“NI consumers are more worried about what is around the corner.
Rising electricity and gas prices are a certainty for the future and
while most may be making ends meet at the moment, these price
increases could force more consumers to go into arrears with their
bills. By comparison, their RoI counterparts are experiencing real
difficulties at the present. South of the border, a higher proportion
are struggling to keep up with their current bills, and a higher
number have bills in arrears.

Furthermore, some 7% NI consumers admit they are concerned about not
being able to keep up with mortgage repayments. And it appears
purchasing big ticket items such as cars, houses and smart phones are
restricted to a few lucky consumers who can afford such things in the
coming year, with 4% looking to buy a car, 6% looking to buy a second
hand car and 3% looking to buy a smart phone.

In order to cope with their finances better, more than four in every
ten consumers are spending more time looking for lower prices and
special offers. Today, almost half (45%) of NI consumers spend more
time looking for low prices and special offers. Furthermore, some 27%
of NI consumers shop at discount retailers with 40% of consumers
claiming to do so to pick up bargains.

Banks are facing a challenging time following the banking crisis and
as a result consumers have shifted their faith to other institutions.
Indeed, some 25% of NI consumers look to alternatives for financial
services, such as the Post Office or Credit Unions, compared to 19%
who trust high street banks. Support for the EU is quite low among NI
consumers with just 6% believing that being part of the EU will help
with economic recovery.

“Banks will have to work hard to regain the trust of many
segments of the population and may face increased competition from
alternative financial institutions. Encouragingly for banks, younger
adults show a relatively higher level of confidence in banks. In the
past, the banks have worked hard to secure the custom of younger
clients through promotions, such targeting strategies may need to be
embraced once again.” David continues.

While the economy has taken quite a battering, NI consumers are
showing a high degree of confidence in themselves but less show faith
in the government to weather the economic downturn. Today, some 36%
of NI consumers have confidence in themselves to get through the
economic downturn compared to 13% who are confident that the
government will help economic recovery. Furthermore, 44% of 35-49
year olds have a higher level of confidence in themselves compared to
other age groups, and those aged 16-24 who have the lowest
self-confidence at just 21%. This degree of confidence is best seen
in full time workers and part time workers at 47% and 40%
respectively; while confidence is lowest in the unemployed at 29%.

Interestingly, NI consumers top spending priorities are: 20% plan to
redecorate their home and 20% are planning on taking a foreign
holiday, expressing their need for escapism; a further 15% plan to
take a short break in Ireland, while 14% plan to pay off debt.


Health is NI consumer’s third biggest concern after rising
utility and grocery bills, with 40% of NI consumers citing health as
one of their top concerns. This level of concern is closely matched
by the low level of trust of NI adults in the health service, with
just 29% having confidence in the health care system to provide
adequately for themselves and their families. The over 65’s
have the highest level of trust in the system at 39% while the
youngest aged 16-24 show the lowest level of trust at 20%. Just 7% of
NI consumers were concerned with not being able to afford adequate
health care.


Branded goods face stiff competition from own-brand label goods, with
Mintel estimating that own-brand products now account for
approximately one third (35%) of all grocery sales in NI. The
recession has allowed discounters to help capture a greater share of
grocery spending and today some 27% of NI consumers claim to shop in
discount retailers to help save money.

As a result, competition between retailers has intensified as the
recession has seen the all-Ireland grocery market contract from £14
billion in 2009 to an estimated £13 billion predicted for 2011. It is
estimated that all Ireland sales of discounters will grow from £628
million in 2004 to £726 million in 2011. Research shows that in 2010
37% of NI consumers felt that the quality of goods available in
discounters was as good as those in main supermarkets. Furthermore,
only 5% of NI consumers felt it was embarrassing to shop in discount


Alcohol consumption rates in NI have dropped from 77% to 74% between
2009 and 2010, with those aged 18-34 and men most likely to drink
alcohol at 82%. Concerns about health and the negative associations
with alcohol, further encouraged by the government are helping to
drive the decline in consumption; and now 48% of NI consumers are
concerned with the long term effects that alcohol might have on their
health. It is expected that in the future consumers will be inclined
to choose lower strengths of alcohol or opt for products that have
light alcohol content.


Findings indicate to a return to overseas travelling when the economy
recovers as 61% of consumers agree that they like they like the idea
of travelling abroad. Furthermore, 20% of NI consumers would like to
take a foreign holiday in the next 12 months.

Please contact Therese
McCrory in the Mintel Press Office on 028 90 241 849 or

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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.

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