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Consumer confidence hits two-year high

Consumer confidence hits two-year high
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

UK consumer confidence increased for a sixth consecutive quarter to its highest level since Q3 2021, according to Deloitte.

The Deloitte Consumer Tracker found that confidence is markedly higher than a year ago, up 6.5 percentage points, particularly in sentiment towards household disposable income.

This, paired with a 5.2 percentage point yearly increase in sentiment towards debt levels, paints a much more positive picture of how consumers are feeling about their personal finances.

In particular, younger people appear to be feeling more confident about their personal finances. The biggest quarterly improvement in sentiment towards disposable income was recorded among 25-34-year-olds (+8 percentage points).

This is even more significant when compared with Q1 2023, with this group having registered a 37 percentage point improvement in sentiment towards their household disposable income, more than double the overall average.

Consumers aged 18-24 and 25-34 are also feeling markedly more confident in their levels of debt compared to a year ago, with 17 and 15 percentage point improvements respectively in their sentiment. This is compared with a five percentage point improvement overall.

Though confidence in personal finances is improving, the first quarter of the year has seen the usual post-Christmas cool-off in expenditure, with discretionary spending falling 3.2 percentage points.

Spending on essentials has also slowed, with utility bill (-5.2 percentage points) and grocery (-4 percentage points) spending falling in the first quarter of the year.

However, spending remains at a net positive compared to last year, with essential spending up 0.5 percentage points and discretionary spending up 5.5 percentage points.

‘Brighter outlook for the consumer sector’

Céline Fenech, consumer insight lead at Deloitte, said: “It is encouraging to see that consumers are feeling more confident in their personal finances – particularly younger consumers. Many consumers are paying less for essentials such as utility bills and groceries as inflation falls. However, spending on non-essential goods and services dropped this quarter, meaning that improving confidence is not yet translating to a significant boost to spending, and cautious optimism is required.

“There are some positive signs that consumers might be starting to loosen their purse strings, with more wriggle room for spending on discretionary items or services. We are seeing the rate at which consumers are increasing their defensive behaviours easing; for example, fewer consumers buying goods on promotion or from cheaper supermarkets.

“Consumer confidence at its highest level in two-and-a-half years, combined with the weather hopefully improving, should signal a brighter outlook for the consumer sector.”

Despite the overall improvement in confidence, the number of consumers feeling confident in their job security fell by 2.2 percentage points, following four consecutive quarters of improvement. Similarly, sentiment towards job opportunities fell 1.4 percentage points this quarter amid a softening labour market.

Related: Consumer confidence stalls in March