Spending on Social Activities Almost at Pre-Covid Levels

Bank of Ireland debit card spending analysis for May reveals a spike in spending levels as non-essential retail opened up following months of lockdown. Consumers spent 10% more in May versus April, with the Accommodation, Transport and Retail sectors all growing in May.

Spending on social activities was up by 13% in May, with the data revealing that social spending overall now stands at just 1% lower than it was prior to the onset of Covid-19. Restaurant spending rose in May by 22%, as ‘Dine-At-Home’ options continued to grow in popularity, while spending on fast-food options also grew by 22% and bars had a healthy level of business despite indoor service remaining closed, with a 40% monthly rise.

There was a nationwide uptick in social spending, with Wicklow (+19%), Donegal (+17%) and Kilkenny (+16%) recording the largest rises in this area, whilst people in Louth (+6%) and Tipperary (+5%) held a tighter rein on social spending during May. A third of all social spending was carried out by people aged between 18 and 35.

Not surprisingly personal grooming saw a massive uplift in activity, with barber shops and beauty salons reopening their doors on May 10th. A massive overall spending rise of 712% was recorded in this area once the nation welcomed back these services, as the 56-65 age cohort (+1,023%) clearly led the way in terms of spending, with people in Laois, Sligo, and Roscommon spending the most in this sector. Dry cleaners (+21%) and tailors (+317%) also witnesses increased business in May as people prepared to shake off the lockdown rust.

Accommodation spending rose by 88% in May when compared to the previous month, however it still lay at 57% lower than its pre-Covid level, indicating that there is still plenty of scope for further growth in this area to return to its pre-pandemic state. Clothing spend however continues to power ahead as people availed of popular shopping outlets opening their doors once again. Spending on clothes rose by 56% month on month, and now stands at +73% overall compared to pre-Covid levels.

As the summer season begins in earnest with hospitality outlets commencing trading once again consumers are naturally eyeing up a change of scenery. Airline spending rose by 145% in May as more and more people were vaccinated and booked a foreign break, whilst domestic tourism hot spots will also be popular this summer judging by the amount of tents bought in May, with spending rising by 11%.

Commenting on these debit card spending patterns, Christian Pierce, Group Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Bank of Ireland said: “May saw consumers preening and prepping for the brighter days ahead. It’s not surprising that barber shops were packed out in May, nor that airline spending has ticked up considerably. 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.

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.”

Bank of Ireland debit card transactions – May 2021 versus April 2021


  • Tent shops +11%
  • Barber & Beauty +712%
  • Shoe shops +58%
  • Charity sector +13%
  • Dry cleaners +21%
  • Transport – airlines +145%
  • Tailors/Alterations +317%
  • Electrical Goods +2%