Consumer confidence on the rise but concerns about the economy linger

While consumers are feeling more positive, there is still some way to go before confidence returns to levels seen before the Brexit vote.

Consumer confidence saw a “surprise” three-point increase in March as positive news about wage increases, inflation decreases and the Brexit agreement in principle, as well as the prospect of lighter evenings and the advent of spring, boosted morale.

According to GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index, all five measures of consumer confidence increased in March compared to February. For example, consumers’ propensity to make a purchase increased by two points to a score of two, while perceptions of their personal financial situation and the general economic situation over the last 12 months were up three points month over month.

In the case of the personal finance measures, the scores were even better than this time last year, with consumers particularly upbeat about their personal financial situation over the next 12 months, which was up seven points on a year ago and five points compared to February on 10.

However, the overall index score is still in negative territory, coming in at -7. And while that was an improvement on February, it was still one point behind the score a year ago.

consumer confidence march 2018

Joe Staton, head of experience innovation UK at GfK, tells Marketing Week, that concerns over the economy are “still holding us back from getting out of negative territory”. Those scores come in at -26 for perceptions of the general economic situation over the last 12 months and -22 for perceptions over the next 12 months.

Staton explains: “Surely there’s nothing consumers like more than the prospect of the clocks going forward, bringing us lighter evenings and ushering in the Spring season? That seems to be the way consumers were thinking in March given the surprise three-point jump in the core index score.

“What’s holding us back from getting out of negative territory for the Overall Index Score? It’s the perception of the wider economy. There’s still no feeling of optimism on that front. What will change the way consumers feel? All we can do is wait and see.”

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