Economists, politicians and industry experts are concerned about the economy and fear that we may be on the brink of a recession. But technically we are not there yet. But have we already talked ourselves into it?
It would appear that we have. Consumers are already convinced that the worst has happened and we are in the grip of economic melt down.
According to research by Nielsen and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) consumer confidence is at an all time low because of rising costs and falling property values. In their survey they found that one in five consumers said they had no spare cash. This is the highest figure yet recorded by this survey.
The Nielsen/BRC Consumer Confidence index polls 1,000 consumers about their thoughts and feelings on job prospects, personal finances and spending intentions. It is showing the lowest score the survey had recorded since it began in 2003 on consumer confidence.
Some 55% of those surveyed ranked inflation as their main concern during periods of economic downturn while 39% of respondents said their main concern was high interest rates. Both of these negative influencers are having an impact on consumers at the moment.
In addition, some 60% of the people polled said they felt their job prospects were "not so good" or "bad" compared with 50% of people polled last year.
Some 57% of people felt their personal finances will be "not so good" or "bad" over the coming 12 months compared with 46% of people polled six months ago.
Just 24% of consumers said they would use any spare cash they had after bills to buy new clothes against 29% in October 2007.
Well that’s what the people of Britain are saying but what are they actually doing?
It would appear the great British public can be quite a fickle bunch. According to another survey also conducted by the BRC, people are still splashing out on new clothes.
The survey (the BRC’s Monthly Sales Monitor), shows that like-for-like retail sales in May rose 1.9%, with fashion making a big impact on the figures and scoring its first positive sales growth since August 2007.
Fashion sales were up 3% like for like in May probably boosted by the warm and sunny weather early in the month.
However the BRC believes there could be an explanation for this strange anomaly. The figures were perhaps artificially inflated as they were being compared with figures for a very wet May in 2007. Combining this with the fact that much of the merchandise on sale currently has been heavily discounted to woo the reluctant shopper could mean that the underlying trend may be less optimistic.
Sir Philip Green has also expressed concerns about the future even though the Topshop and Topman chains have been trading well. In a interview with the Times he said that people have started to realise that it is going to be a long slog and that the middle market where he operates Bhs, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton chains, is already feeling the pinch.
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