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Consumers edge towards starting block, but when will the spending gun fire?

22 July 2013

  • Consumers feel the most optimistic about their disposable income since the Deloitte Consumer Tracker began in 2011 (-29% vs. -36% in Q2 2012).
  • The Tracker is picking up signs of a subtle shift of emphasis in consumer behaviour.
  • Consumers are placing less focus on controlling their costs and are slightly more willing to spend on non-essentials.

Consumer confidence is growing and behaviour is beginning to change, according to the latest Deloitte Consumer Tracker. Consumers feel the most optimistic about their disposable income since the Tracker began in 2011. The sentiment index rose by 7 points to -29%, compared to -36% this time last year. Confidence has been bolstered by an improving economic climate and a reduction in consumer concerns about debt which has nearly halved in the last year, from -15% in Q2 2012 to -8% in Q2 2013.

This renewed confidence is slowly beginning to translate into a change in behaviour as consumers become less defensive in their spending habits. Last quarter, fewer consumers said they were trading down (25% vs. 28% in Q2 2012), bargain hunting (17% vs. 20%) or buying on sale (8% vs. 11%).

The Deloitte Consumer Tracker also shows a slightly greater willingness to spend on non-essentials such as leisure activities. Last quarter, fewer consumers were spending less on holidays, eating out at restaurants and going on short breaks.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte said: “The UK consumer is past the worst and sentiment is gradually improving. We are picking up signs that consumers are less focussed on the shopping strategies they used to beat the recession, such as trading down, bargain hunting or buying on sale. If the economy continues to mend then we would expect this shift away from defensive behaviour to begin to translate into a greater willingness to spend.

“But for all the positive news about the economy, times remain tough on the High Street and the consumer mood is cautious. Consumers have become used to weak income growth in the last five years. Given the many false dawns since the start of the global financial crisis and the continuing pressure on incomes, consumer spending is unlikely to return to pre-crisis rates of growth for a long time.”

Indeed, the Consumer Tracker shows only 23% of consumers believe the UK is showing signs of recovery and 47% do not expect their disposable income to improve in 2014.

Nevertheless, the positive shift in behaviour is gathering momentum as consumers say they intend to increase their discretionary spending in the next quarter. In Q3 2013, consumers plan to spend more in categories such as ‘restaurants’ and ‘major household appliances’, both of which saw sentiment improve by 3 points year-on-year (-16% vs. -19% in Q2 2012 and -13% vs. -16% in Q2 2012 respectively).

Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research said: “Undoubtedly, things are moving in the right direction. Consumers are beginning to feel better about their financial position. However, they have worked hard to redress their balance sheets and are not as easily tempted to indulge as they might have been prior to the recession.”

Stewart added: “UK business is beginning to find its confidence. Our latest CFO Survey saw business optimism improve for a fourth consecutive quarter. Hopefully, this will spread to the consumer sector.”

End

Notes to editors

About The Deloitte Consumer Tracker
The Deloitte Consumer Tracker is an economic update focussed on consumer spending attitudes and behaviours.  Through a quarterly survey of 3,000 adult UK consumers it monitors the patterns of consumer expenditure on a category-by-category basis and the underlying drivers of spending behaviour, notably household disposable income and consumer confidence. It also considers consumers’ spending outlook for the next quarter.

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see www.deloitte.co.uk/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

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