Don’t Underestimate the UK Consumer


One of the most common questions we are asked by corporate clients is "How are UK consumers doing?"

About the authors

Elena Paitra
Managing Director, Head of Consumer Sector
Large Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

Nikesh Sawjani
UK Economist, Economic and Market Insight
Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

The combination of Brexit uncertainty at home, trade and other geo-political tensions globally, a myriad of often conflicting data across consumption, retail sales and household income combined with numerous headlines regarding the woes of the high street can lead to an unclear and often bearish picture of the UK consumer.

The recently launched Viewpoint report looks beyond the headlines, examining key aspects of UK consumption to paint an accurate picture of consumption trends. And the message is clear: don’t underestimate the UK consumer.

While Brexit will be an interesting test to the consumers' resolve, conditions for household spending are strong and the consumer has been extremely resilient in the face of uncertainty. From the data we see, there is scope for the consumer to continue bearing the burden of UK economic growth.

Key insights to take away:

  • The UK consumer has been a bright spot in the economy since the EU referendum, accounting for 75% of GDP in this period.
  • Consumers are continuing to spend but doing so in different ways. We would thus caution against relying on the more traditional surveys such as the BRC, CBI and GfK’s Consumer Confidence measure.
  • Official ONS Retail Sales continue to outperform surveys and consumer confidence in personal finances remains resilient.
  • This is important as the recent rise in uncertainty has caused the UK economy to slow. Business investment is weak suggesting that economic growth is likely to remain subpar in the near term.
  • The UK is experiencing record levels of employment and wages are rising at the highest rate since the financial crisis.
  • Proportion of income spent servicing debt has eased back in a continuing low interest rate environment.
  • Even in this period of high uncertainty and inflation, household spending has risen while the saving ratio has fallen. Consumers’ desire to keep spending is high.

For further insights into UK consumers' mindsets and spending habits download the full report (PDF).

Useful links

Download the 2019 Business in Britain: Retail report.

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