UK shoppers have new priorities

25 July 2012

LONDON: Mobile phones and broadband are among the "new essentials of consumer life" in the UK, with shoppers on tight budgets preferring to cut their spending on food and clothing instead.

Which? magazine polled 2,006 adults, and found that 57% expected to trim their outlay on big-ticket items going forward. This total dropped to 56% for socialising and entertainment, 55% for clothing, 54% for home improvement and 46% for alcohol and tobacco.

Meanwhile, 43% were planning to cut their spend on groceries and food, ahead of the 37% logged by mobile phones, 34% for pay-TV subscriptions and 26% for broadband.

"While people are cutting back in some areas, there is a growing emphasis on products that have come to be regarded as the new essentials of consumer life. These include broadband, TV subscriptions and mobile phone bills," the study said.

Elsewhere, the analysis asked the panel which industries they trusted, and discovered the food and grocery sector led the charts on 3.57 points out of a possible five.

Domestic appliance manufacturers posted 3.38 points here, the same total as technology companies. Broadband and landline providers received 3.14 points and 3.09 points in turn.

At the other end of the spectrum, automakers recorded just 2.64 points, with longer-term financial products on 2.72 points, gas and electricity suppliers on 2.83 points and banks on 2.92 points

More broadly, only 53% of interviewees were "satisfied with life". Financial insecurity was a particular problem, as shown by the fact household debt stands at £1.5tr, the highest amount since the 1980s.

An additional 48% of the sample revealed they could not manage any further unexpected costs, and 35% were already finding it hard to cope on their current income.

Which? also stated most people find it difficult to save 7p from every £1, potentially falling to 5p by 2016. Latvia and Lithuania are the only European countries with a lower savings rate than the UK.

"Consumers in Britain are going through the tightest squeeze in their living standards since the 1920s. Many consumers are clinging to the edge of a financial cliff with savings at rock bottom and personal debt levels sky high," said Richard Lloyd, the organisation's executive director.

Data sourced from Which?; additional content by Warc staff