Take that, AUSTERITY. When Bertie’s BACK ON THE BOX it can only mean one thing. Here are our 10 signs THE RECESSION IS OVER…
Politicians and pundits are saying it – economic recovery is gathering force. Restaurant menus are growing fancier by the minute, bank bonuses have returned and the IT bag is back. But what exactly is it that’s making us feel boomier, we wonder? And perhaps more importantly, have we learned our lesson? Not all of us are feeling spendy again, but nevertheless – here’s ten signs the recession is over.
1. SCHOOL TRIPS
First things first: life is still rotten hard. Irish people are fed up, particularly outside the capital and its privileged neighbourhoods. January only salts the wounds austerity has inflicted over the past six years. But, whisper it, the Great Recession is ending. Employment figures rising, a property fizz, a ghost estate done up here and a restoration there. The first familiar clue came from our teenagers. The school trip is back, but with a charitable bent. We found ourselves at a charity table quiz paying for the dears to go off to India to help build villages for those who have never experienced any of the first world nonsense which follows.
2. CAR SALES
Car sales went up 27 per cent in the first nine months of last year. Sure, after six years of making do a lot of people were simply bound by law to replace their knackered banger. But look at the number plates. People are driving spanking new cars because yes, new car sales were also up – by 30 per cent. Hark, too, the return of the olive oil-voiced car ad, selling cars on the slickness of their wheels rather than competitive price. BMW’s latest Irish ad is a slather of luxury – “That feeling. Imagine having it every day”. Some don’t have to imagine, as they drive out of the dealerships in their fancy-pants wheels.
So staring at number plates is a diversion again. The traffic on the roads tells us not only that people can afford to put petrol in their cars, but that they’re busier. For the first time since 2008, Grafton Street is fully leased. It might just be what the rose-tinted Cassandras are telling us, but could the congestion on the roads mean people are rediscovering leisure time? Transport engineers say traffic in Irish cities and towns hasn’t reached 2008 levels but confirm that yes, they sure are annoying enough to mean prosperity.
BANG. It’s back. If you ever see a sign of recovery it’s a full house at BANG restaurant, HQ of boom-time fancy dining. And it’s changed its tune, from a celebrity honey pot (remember previous owners, the spendy Stokes brothers?) to a relaxed restaurant for all, as their new radio ad featuring that harbinger of the good life, Paolo Tullio, promotes. Seasoned restaurateurs seem to have learned lessons from the greedy days of having three seatings a night. On a recent busy Saturday, The Woollen Mills (D1) offered us a table for as long as we wished – not just from 7pm – 8.15pm.
5. SPORTING STYLE
When Lidl start selling fetching ski gear you know that ski holidays are back among Ireland’s young professionals, and the winter recharge a thing of the present. Golf is playing “catchup” too, to use Michael Noonan’s chummy phrase. Golf clubs are accepting fresh 2015 memberships at full price again, bold enough to offer free burger and chips with each cut-price green fee. But no need for designer gear. That sport of the expensively heeled is finding a new market too, with Padraig Harrington having launched his golfwear line for Dunnes Stores last summer. Quite the upswing.
6. THE GOODIE BAG IS BACK
If the rise in job creation shows the economy getting some colour back in its cheeks, a sure sign from the corporate and charity events frontier is the return of the ritzy goodie bag. The bust-time goodie bag was much ado about nothing – a ten per cent discount token cowering inside crinkly paper, with branded USB key on a good day. Now you might find a jewellery bauble or dainty scarf. But while big Irish companies are rebranding themselves (ESB, Eircom, Bord Gais), we ask them not to leave us with as much flotsam as in Celtic Tiger days. Branded Anglo Irish Bank golfballs, anyone?
7. PARTY TIME
If e’er we saw a sign of good times rolling, it was when tickets to Electric Picnic sold out in record time last July. Off season, people are diverting their partying from nightclubs to home, and we’ve learned how to do it thriftily. Why employ a barman and canapés caterer when you can go to Aldi for Alsatian Pinot Noir and truffle buffalo mozzarella? On the town, prices have risen. Twitter was all a-twitter lately about a €19.90 receipt from The Temple Bar for two pints and two bags of crisps. Ooh, and cocktails have been reunited with dinner. Thank god you can have a roasted hazelnut espresso martini with a fusion meal again (Opium, D2). We were parched.
8. ARM CANDY
We are not ashamed to want an IT bag again – though the ones you’ll see in the refurbished new bag emporium at Brown Thomas have a quieter, hardened-by-life aesthetic. The ones we picked out were in the new Miu Miu, where the nice lady talked of the coin-clinking footfall of Chinese and Saudi Arabian shoppers seeking lower taxes. These fashionable daytrippers adore luxury, and apparently the flavour of this month is the €1,450 matelasse, with bubbly (!) lamb leather and hardwear dipped in gold. There are concealed pockets on all these bags – supposed to be for passports, but a fitting place to stash the cash, too.
9. OFFICE PERKS
Are you waking up to them? We hope so, because the banks are. Anecdotally, banks had stripped away every perk, down to no newspaper on the bank manager’s desk in the morning and in some cases, no manager! Ha Ha! Now, the Central Bank is sending staff to cookery schools for team-building evenings, bonding over baltis and bread-making. Not to mention the reported €180 million it just spent refurbishing the Anglo Irish offices – adding a gym, swish restaurant and retail area. And Richie Boucher, CEO of Bank of Ireland, recently announced bonuses for 12,000 staff, and a first pay rise of 3.7 per cent for any bailed-out bank since 2008. Drinks are on them.
10. BERTIE IS BACK
The ultimate sign of a new era is when Bertie Ahern rears his head – in a recent interview, offering the nation an unequivocal apology for the boom and for the property crash. The Kaiser of the Good Times has always aligned himself with, of course, good times. And the way is paved for his return, God help us. Whether through the political mayhem the coalition has suffered in picking up his pieces, or by us just looking like we’re having fun again, we’ve created the conditions for things to get “boomier”, to use his 2006 phrase. We don’t hear the roar of a tiger, but there is a feline paw moving cautiously forward.