A recent survey has unveiled a glimmer of optimism among British consumers, marking the highest level of confidence since January 2022. The surge in positivity is attributed to growing hopes for the economy, driven by a decrease in inflation and an increase in wages.
According to the GfK consumer sentiment indicator, consumer confidence climbed to -21 in September, marking the second consecutive month of improvement from August’s -25. However, it’s worth noting that this figure remains below the historical average of -10, as recorded since 1974.
The survey results are seen as encouraging, but experts urge caution, emphasizing that many households continue to grapple with the ongoing cost-of-living challenges. Joe Staton, GfK’s client strategy director, emphasized, “While this month’s improved headline score is good news, it’s important to note many households are still struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and that economic conditions are tough. The reality is that consumer confidence remains suppressed, and the financial mood of the nation is still negative.”
Despite these challenges, there is a notable shift in expectations. Households are more optimistic about their personal financial situations in the coming year, with the indicator improving from -2 to -3. This is a significant departure from the reading of -40 recorded a year ago, when energy prices experienced a sharp increase.
Moreover, views about the economy’s performance over the next 12 months have also improved, with the indicator rising from -30 to -24. This suggests that consumers are beginning to see brighter economic prospects on the horizon.
A contributing factor to this positive sentiment is the decline in consumer price inflation, which dropped to 6.7 percent in August from a peak of 11.1 percent in October 2022. Although inflation remains above the Bank of England’s target, the easing of price pressures has undoubtedly had a calming effect on consumers.
The Bank of England’s recent decision to pause its series of interest rate hikes, maintaining the Bank Rate at 5.25 percent, is aligned with the nation’s economic slowdown and the need to support recovery.
While the UK’s consumer sentiment is on the upswing, the road to full economic recovery remains challenging. The impact of the cost-of-living crisis and the persistent inflationary pressures should not be underestimated. Nonetheless, these signs of growing optimism suggest that consumers are cautiously hopeful about the future economic landscape.