And so with a sprinkling of rain, a flicker of elusive sunshine and, oh, a splash of everything else, another summer draws to a close. Students are heading back to school or university. Workers are getting back to work. Everyone is returning to the routine.
The first week of September is always a bitter-sweet time of year. Where did the summer go? All those visions of glorious, sun-kissed days at the beach and balmy, barbecue-themed nights turned out to be just that: visions that flitted into view now and then, but mostly remained tantalisingly out of reach. That’s Ireland for you! If you don’t like the weather here, just wait five minutes and you’ll get something else.
There is, however, something also profoundly uplifting about getting back into the swing of things at this time of year. In the world of PR, summer is known as the ‘silly season’ – people are on holidays, things go a little quiet, decisions are delayed, focus tends to drift… Now that the batteries have been recharged and the ‘on’ switch re-engaged, frankly it’s good to get back into it.
Even more so now that Ireland is fully in growth mode once again. Our economy grew by more than 6% during the first quarter of 2015 – the highest rate of growth in the EU by a distance – and the latest Government forecast suggests it will expand by 4% over the full year. As agency chief Owen Cullen noted in his interview with PR Week last winter, the outlook here is as good as it’s been in some time.
The small business sector is one of the best barometers of economic health, and in June our client Viking reported that 88% of Irish workers were planning to take a proper summer holiday this year compared to just 77% last year – an increase of 10% and indicative of a strong boost in consumer confidence.
That confidence extends to Ireland’s automotive sector, where sales have been growing briskly since last year. The 2014 passenger car market passed the 100,000 unit mark after a positively booming July performance, during which more than 27,000 new cars were registered, bringing the full market for the year to date to more than 110,000 units – 30% up on this time last year.
The stats in the commercial vehicle market are even more impressive, where van sales are up by more than 50% over 2014 figures. Our client Ford – the undisputed leader of Ireland’s CV market – has always maintained that van sales are an excellent indicator of the industrial mood, and the latest figures from the SIMI suggest that business confidence and activity are powering ahead.
All of which is good news, for PR agencies like ourselves, for companies large and small, for the country generally. Challenges remain – driving down the unemployment rate, curtailing wage, energy and property costs – but there seems little doubt that Ireland is back on track.
Work to be done, let’s get to it.