Penneys reveals how ‘shecession’ is impacting Irish women the most

Six in ten of those with the lowest quality of life rating are women who, compared to men, are less content with their financial situation. 

Women are bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis with a ‘shecession’ affecting womens’ quality of life.

That’s according to the first-ever Penneys ‘Pulse of the Nation’ index with research carried out by Amárach.

“We have launched the Penneys Pulse of the Nation Index to understand more broadly how people are feeling, and how savvy and adaptable Irish consumers are becoming in the face of financial pressures”

The research shows that half (56%) of people in Ireland are happy with their quality of life, but four in ten feel it has got worse in the last quarter as their finances came under pressure from rising costs.

The first Index by Penneys, which operates 37 stores across Ireland, has revealed that during this cost of living crisis, the majority of people in Ireland have adapted their behaviour, becoming savvier than ever before with over nine in ten (95%) engaging in money saving hacks.

Feel good factor

“We have launched the Penneys Pulse of the Nation Index to understand more broadly how people are feeling, and how savvy and adaptable Irish consumers are becoming in the face of financial pressures,” said Damien O’Neill, Head of Penneys Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“Value, alongside quality, is in our DNA at Penneys and the savvy shopper trend helps explain why we are welcoming new Penneys customers who may not have shopped with us before. Our customers rely on us for great quality affordable essentials which is why we pledged to keep prices low on essential kids’ products last winter.

“But they also come to us for a feel-good lift and a bargain, whether that’s an affordable pay-day treat, or somewhere to find holiday style for the whole family that won’t break the bank, we know our customers look to us to save money but also to spend money on things that make them feel good.”

Crisis takes a disproportionate toll on women

The research indicated how the cost of living crisis is taking a disproportionate toll on women, who account for six in ten of those with the lowest quality of life. Women are less content with their financial situation (46%) compared to men (54%) and report lower levels of satisfaction with their mental health (66% female v 72% male) and physical health (56% female v 63% male).

Women record higher levels of satisfaction when it comes to connection with their community (81% female v 76% male) and family life (85% female v 80% male).

Women in Ireland, who make up half the population, have responded quickly to the cost of living crisis. Seven in ten (70%) describe themselves as obsessed with finding the best value compared to over half of men (56%) – increasing to 78% for women with children.

The research also indicates that women are cutting back on spending more than men with 64% reducing their spend on non-essential items compared to half of men. 79% of women are treating themselves less often vs 66% of men; almost three quarters (74%) are spending less on socialising compared to 66% of men; approximately nine in ten (86%) are buying less clothing; and women are far more likely to wear warmer clothing or turn on the heat less – 86% of women compared to 76% of men.

The financial pressures on women weigh heavily on their outlook for the future as they have less confidence in the Irish economy, with six in ten women (63%) having a negative economic outlook compared to just four in ten (41%) of men.

On the bright side, there are some little luxuries that women in Ireland are refusing to give up, with Penneys seeing huge demand in recent months for health and beauty products such as skincare, cosmetics, and fragrances.

The so-called “lipstick index” is well and truly alive with sales of lipsticks up 41% versus last year while lip gloss is a clear favourite with sales up 181%. The Irish fake tan phenomenon continues as fake tan is one of the top selling cosmetic lines at Penneys, with the Republic of Ireland accounting for over 60% of the retailer’s global fake tan sales, while every minute Penneys sells 11 packs of false lashes and 19 beauty face masks in its stores.

The demand is also seen through Penneys’ in-store beauty studios, where more customers than ever before are treating themselves to manicures, pedicures, facial threading and waxing and eyelash and eyebrow treatments at affordable prices, with a 15% uplift in transactions.

People ‘snuddle’ down to survive crisis

The Index showed that a typical person takes five actions on average to save money, including wearing warmer clothes at home to reduce heating costs (81%) and cancelling entertainment subscriptions (41%).

Seven in ten (69%) report that their spending on essential living expenses has increased while over half (57%) of adults have admitted cutting their non-essential spending. In parallel, Penneys has seen increased numbers of customers in its stores searching for quality essential clothing at value prices over recent months.

Money is firmly on the minds of consumers, with large purchases deferred by 62% of adults; three-in-four people are switching to more cost-effective service providers and retailers; and worryingly, one-in-four have admitted to skipping a bill to meet other financial priorities.

Despite making these changes, half of adults are still struggling to manage their monthly outgoings.

The Index also includes insights on what Penneys’ customers are buying in its stores, which reinforces in practice how their shopping behaviours and spending habits are changing in response to the cost of living crisis.

With eight in ten people admitting to wearing warmer clothing to keep heating bills down, Penneys has seen record-breaking demand for warm cosy clothes during the colder months that can be worn inside the home – items including Snuddies (+96% YoY), thermal underwear (+55%) and velvet plush leggings (+160%) have all soared in recent months. As a result, the retailer offers 115 styles of Snuddies and velvet leggings which are now available in eight colours, including kids sizing, in order to meet high customer demand.

Despite the current financial pressures, people in Ireland are still to looking to enjoy themselves and find some money for the little pleasures in life, with over a third of adults planning a trip abroad over the next three months.

Penneys is also seeing huge demand in its stores, much earlier this year compared to previous years, for holiday items such as flip flops (+119% YoY), beach towels (+72% YoY), swimwear (+69% YoY), sunglasses (+42% YoY) and luggage (+146% YoY).

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.