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Consumer confidence tumbles as more now worried about cash than catching Covid

  • New research shows consumer confidence has started to fall
  • Rising cost of living and fuel prices see shoppers pull back on spending
  • New car sales fell to their lowest level in March for 24 years as SMMT warns of ‘economic headwinds’

Time 7:58 am, April 12, 2022

Consumer confidence has taken a tumble as research reveals more people are now worried about their finances than catching coronavirus.

Researchers at University College London have found that almost four in 10 people (38 per cent) are now worried about their finances.

This compares to 33 per cent who told the UCL survey that they’ve worried about catching Covid.


Researchers polled nearly 30,000 people between March 21 and 27 across the country.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said: ‘Concerns about money have been increasing, with people now more concerned about finances than about Covid-19.

‘This suggests that new psychological stressors are becoming dominant for individuals.’

The dip in consumer confidence has also seen retail sales growth slow significantly.


Figures for March from the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor released today (April 12) showed that sales increased by 3.1 per cent, slipping back from a 6.7 per cent rise in February.

The data showed that like-for-like retail sales were actually down 0.4 per cent against the same month last year.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: ‘As consumer confidence continued to sink, March saw sales slow, and while spend remained above last year this likely reflects higher prices.

‘The rising cost of living and the ongoing war in Ukraine has shaken consumer confidence, with expectations of people’s personal finances over the next 12 months reaching depths not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

‘Furthermore, households are yet to feel the full impact of the recent rise in energy prices and national insurance changes.

‘Ultimately, consumers face an enormous challenge this year, and this is likely to be reflected in retail spend in the future.’

Meanwhile, in separate research, Barclaycard also found that rising prices are starting to affect consumer spending patterns.

Jose Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, added: ‘Rising fuel prices and household bills are clearly starting to influence consumer behaviour, with many Brits changing their travel and shopping habits to save money.

‘While this may dampen growth in the months ahead, we shouldn’t overlook the expected heatwave later in April, and the fast-approaching Easter holidays, both of which are likely to boost non-essential spending.’

Last month, new car sales fell to their lowest level for 24 years with 243,000 new cars registered.

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As the figures were released the SMMT has warned ‘economic headwinds’ such as rising energy costs, fuel costs, inflation and a squeeze on household incomes ‘could impact new vehicle demand’. 

Chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘With increasing household and business costs, government must do all it can to support consumers so that the growth of electric vehicles can be sustained and the UK’s ambitious net zero timetable delivered.’

Richard Peberdy, UK head of Automotive for KPMG, added: ‘The rising cost of living poses significant questions about whether consumers will delay, or even curtail, larger investments, such as on a car. The coming months will tell.’

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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