UK consumers in gloomy mood

27 July 2011

LONDON: Consumers in the UK remain in gloomy mood, not least as a result of declining income levels and a "squeeze" on spending, a study has revealed.

Markit, the research group, and Ipsos Mori, the survey firm, polled 1,500 adults across the country.

They reported that 38% of households saw their financial situation deteriorate in July compared with the previous month.

By contrast, just 6% agreed there had been an improvement on this metric.

As such, the overall index rating - where a score above 50 point indicates a positive trend and a reading below this figure reflects the opposite - fell from 35.1 points to 34.4 points month on month

"The latest reading signalled that the rate of deterioration in household finances was as severe as the survey-record seen in March 2009."

Elsewhere, 45% of residences had less money to spend in July, and a modest 8% boasted a greater amount of available funds.

At 31.8 points, down from 35.0 points in June, the resulting index score here was the lowest since the survey first started in February 2009.

Indeed, Markit's analysis argued shoppers are facing a major "squeeze" in this area, with negative knock-on effects on savings rates, and heightening the need for unsecured credit.

When discussing the outlook for the coming 12 months, totals stood at 38.8 points for July, measured against 34.6 points in June.

However, 49% of households anticipated their economic circumstances would get worse in the next year, while only 27% predicted enjoying an improvement in these terms.

Inflation is another ongoing issue, as 81% of respondents stated their cost of living is currently rising, and 88% expected this trend to continue in the next 12 months.

One bright spot came upon assessing job security, yielding 42.3 points and increasing from 41.9 points in June, and the best level recorded since May 2010.

Even in this category there were discernable differences between consumer perceptions.

"Reduced job insecurity was largely confined to the private sector, as those in the public sector saw a steeper fall in job security than during June," Markit said.

Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, warned that rising bills and the fragile condition of the UK economy could potentially "knock confidence" in the future.

"Higher living costs and stretched disposable incomes continue to weigh heavily on consumer finances," he said.

"However, the forward-looking parts of the survey are slightly less downbeat, suggesting that increasing numbers of households expect a break in the clouds."

Data sourced from Markit; additional content by Warc staff