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UK consumer confidence plummets near to all-time low

A surface level view of London city buildings shrouded in mist
Consumer confidence in the general economy for the coming 12 months fell amid inflation and energy bill woes: Photo: Getty

Consumer confidence has dropped to a near-historic low as UK households struggle with double digit inflation and looming increases in energy bills.

GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index dropped three points in January to minus 45 after a short-lived rally in the last quarter.

Confidence in the general economy for the coming 12 months fell one point to minus 54 and remains 22 points lower than last January, while the forecast for personal finances increased to minus 27 but is still 25 points lower than this time last year.

GfK client strategy director Joe Staton said: “Consumers have a New Year hangover but it’s of the economic kind, with high levels of pessimism over the state of the wider economy.

Read more: Over 150,000 households needed help for first time with rising food and energy bills

“And unlike a conventional hangover, this one won’t vanish quickly. The only glimmer of hope in the results is a slight uptick in the outlook for our personal financial situation, but this is of little comfort because it is still 25 points lower than this time last year.

“This month’s six-point decline in the major purchase index does not augur well because consumer spending is a driving force of our economy and future growth.

“With inflation continuing to swallow up pay rises, and the prospect of some shocking energy bills landing soon, the forecast for consumer confidence this year is not looking good. One thing we can be sure of is that 2023 promises to be a bumpy ride.”

The major purchase index, an indicator of confidence in buying big ticket items, fell six points to minus 40 – some 30 points lower than last January.

Read more: How to beat the supermarket price rises

Linda Ellett, UK head of retail and leisure consumer markets at KPMG, said: “Higher essential costs, a fear of further increases yet to come – particularly the April energy price cap rise – are weighing on consumer confidence, whilst increased spending on credit at Christmas is also weighing on many minds.

“Whilst appetite and ability for big ticket spending remains limited in this climate, there are still consumers planning on spending this year on the likes of holidays, home improvements and appliances.

“The economy will certainly need that spend to come to fruition over the coming months.”

Watch: What is a recession and how do we spot one?