Consumer confidence dips again as rising prices worries deepen
With prices and inflation rising, Deloitte’s new Consumer Confidence Index for Q4 2021 wasn’t going to be a positive read. And don’t expect the upcoming Q1 reading to improve with rising interest rates factored in.
Confidence in Q4 fell one percentage point for a second consecutive quarter, reaching -11%, as consumers started to feel the squeeze of inflation and finances were hit with higher household bills.
According to 3,177 UK consumers interviewed between 31 December and 5 January, personal expenditure in the final quarter of 2021 increased for 41% of consumers, up from 36% in Q3, according to the latest Deloitte Consumer Tracker. Of these, 74% cited rising prices.
Meanwhile, across the Consumer Tracker’s seven measures of confidence, sentiment around the state of the economy recorded the largest quarter-on-quarter decline, falling eight percentage points. This fall marks the lowest reading since Q1 2021, when the UK was under strict lockdown measures.
Consumers also noted their intended spending on discretionary items will fall by nine percentage points in the current Q1.
Deloitte said this is more pronounced in social categories, including going out and eating at restaurants, down -20 and -17 percentage points respectively. Although spending on clothing wasn’t factored in to the research, we can assume cuts here will also be higher with less socialising meaning less need to replenish wardrobe choices.
While overall consumer spending on essential goods and services will remain flat in Q1 2022, utility bill expenditure specifically is expected to increase by nine percentage points, quarter-on-quarter.
“With essential spending set to take precedence over discretionary spending in the quarter ahead, consumers are signalling that holidays and socialising could be delayed, despite pent-up demand”, the report said.
Céline Fenech, consumer insights lead at Deloitte, said: “With the expected squeeze on spending power and higher inflation, another fall in confidence may dent the hopes of a consumer recovery. However, some consumers are still in the fortunate position of having higher levels of savings compared to before the pandemic, indicating some financial resilience.”
She added: “The further easing of restrictions should also support an improvement in sentiment, in turn boosting spending. However, this may not occur until inflation has peaked so the critical question in the meantime is whether consumers can afford to continue spending.”
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