Consumer confidence is up but progress feels like it is in ‘slow motion’

People’s view of their personal finances improves in April but hides a general flatness to consumer confidence that is taken a while to shift.

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Consumer confidence grew for the first time in two months in April, but the overall picture remains stubbornly flat against an indifferent economic environment.

Four of the five measures that make up GfK’s Consumer Confidence Barometer increased in April, with the overall index score growing by two points. It now sits at -19 (the same figure it was in January) meaning over the last six months it has bounced between -24 and -19, highlighting just how slow progress has become in turning around the public’s economic perception.

It is, however, a vast improvement on last year when the overall index score stood at -30.

The public’s perception of their own personal financial situation over the next 12 months (2) is the only measure that is in positive figures, remaining flat from March.

Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, welcomes an “improving picture” for consumer confidence but acknowledges the small increases and decreases in confidence over the past six months have made it feel like it is happening in “slow motion”.

“Consumer confidence can be a very slow-moving creature and the past six months underline that,” Staton tells Marketing Week.

Consumers are viewing their personal finances (up two points to -11) and the general economy (up four points to -41) over the past year more favourably.

People’s expectations for the general economic situation over the next 12 months have also improved, up two points to -21, while the major purchase index saw a two-point boost to -25.

“At least there’s an air of forgiveness with consumers delivering softer verdicts on how they look back at the past year regarding their personal finances and the wider economy. But it will be a long and difficult climb until we see signs of true economic buoyancy,” says Staton.

“So, as they move forward, marketers must draw on their proven experience and expertise, and arm themselves with insights, so they can continue to make savvy decisions.”