LONDON: Consumers in the UK are feeling increasingly positive about their levels of disposable income, debt and job security, new figures have revealed.

The Deloitte Consumer Tracker, reported in Retail Gazette, indicated that net confidence around disposable income had risen nine points to -31% in the first quarter of 2013, when compared with the same period a year earlier. The figures for both debt levels and job security were up three points from 2012.

"The macroeconomic environment for consumers is beginning to improve, albeit very slowly," said Ian Stewart, Deloitte's chief economist.

The recovering sentiments around disposable income did not translate directly into discretionary spending, which the report said remained "subdued". Stewart noted that an "elevated level of inflation and concerns about the pace of price rises over the coming months", especially in the energy sector, were contributory factors.

Some categories did see modest improvements in purchasing sentiment, with the reading for clothing and footwear up six points to -17%, while that for major household appliances rose four points to -8%.

Generally, however, UK consumers were found to be exercising "defensive" spending strategies, with a fifth of shoppers spending less in the last quarter and seeking out bargains and discounts.

"Technology advancements have armed shoppers with more data to help them find the best deal," said Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte.

Perkins also noted an increasing polarisation of the consumer market, with growth in the value and luxury sectors.

"Often the same consumers are shopping at both ends of the spectrum," he added, "demonstrating the importance they place not only on price but also on the retail experience."

Data sourced from Retail Gazette; additional content by Warc staff