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Dublin and Mastercard team up to analyse consumer spending

Shoppers at Christmas in Dublin

Dublin City Council has released new economic data on retail spending and tourism patterns gleaned from a new three-year partnership with Mastercard’s SpendingPulse.

As part of the 12th Dublin Economic Monitor–which tracks 15 key economic indicators–the report includes new insights drawn from anonymised and aggregated transaction data, including all payment types used by Dubliners and tourists, such as cards, cash and cheques.

Jamie Cudden, Smart City Program Manager, Dublin City Council

“We produce the monitor every quarter but we wanted to look at new insights for data sets that give us a better grip in terms of current economic performance,” Jamie Cudden, Smart City Program Manager, Dublin City Council, told Cities Today. “Some national statistics that are produced can have a bit of a lag but with this new data we can get some up-to-date insights on retail and tourist spending.”

The figures show that retail sales in Dublin posted growth of 6.1 percent year on year with tourism spending up 5.9 percent, including 16 percent growth by American tourists. Spending by UK tourists was down 7 percent. With Brexit a cause of concern for the Irish economy as a whole, city leaders say the up-to-date insights on its economic performance will help it to support future planning.

How can this data assist cities?

Michael McNamara, Vice President, Advanced Analytics, Mastercard, who leads SpendingPulse, says that it’s all about “advancing the ball” and providing data that can monitor the economy in a more timely and accurate way from additional data sources.

“You are generally looking at how can I get better information upon which I can make decisions and to evaluate my economic situation,” he explained. “That gets back to having more timely data that is consistent and accurate as well providing information that cities couldn’t get before.”

McNamara says that this is where data can open up doors for cities not only in terms of planning and policy but even to provide a snapshot of city high streets.

“E-commerce is a big topic because it is changing the retail landscape in a substantial way and that could have repercussions,” he added. “The data can help cities see the retail footprint changing over time, understand how e-commerce is working and how much it is growing by. It can really inform a city in terms of how they want to position their economy to be a beneficiary of that as opposed to seeing an empty store front.”

To begin, the collaboration will focus on citywide spending but, according to Cudden, this could change.

“We might start looking at breaking it down more into smaller areas,” he said. “We are also keen to run some events for start-ups allowing the innovations that Mastercard has through their lab [based in Dublin]. They are doing some cool stuff on variables and new innovations on payments which they are already testing with some retailers in Dublin.”

As part of the partnership with Dublin City Council, Mastercard will engage with Dublin start-ups to come up with innovations to promote a cashless society while also developing new ways to use the city’s data.

While it is unclear what will happen at the end of the three-year partnership, McNamara hopes the collaboration is the beginning of a much longer-term agreement. He says that in three years’ time, both parties will be in a strong position to provide more insights to help the city, business and the encompassing residual benefits for citizens.

Cudden observed: “People sometimes hear things like ‘big data’ and it all sounds very obscure. But when you can demonstrate it being used in a way that can really add value to policy and to your understanding of the economy, that’s when people can relate to these types of projects.”