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Confidence rises to defy talk of Brexit-led downturn


Joe Staton of GfK

Joe Staton of GfK

Joe Staton of GfK

Consumers have reported an "unexpected uptick" in confidence in defiance of a predicted pre-election and post-Brexit slump. The closely watched GfK Consumer Confidence Index increased two points in May to minus five, despite inflation dealing a blow to household spending and wages rising at a slower pace than inflation for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

Joe Staton, head of market dynamics at GfK, said: "We have an unexpected uptick in the barometer this month as consumers report increased confidence in their personal financial situation, the wider economy and future plans for shopping and saving.

"Despite life becoming more expensive with inflation hitting its highest level in four years and wages dropping in real terms for the first time in three years, stagnant living standards haven't yet significantly dented consumers' spirits - when it comes to retail therapy we remain happy to splash the cash as sales jump ahead of expectations."

The measure of consumers' changes in personal finances over the last year increased by one point, while the forecast for the next year is up two points on last month.

The measure for the general economic situation of the country during the last 12 months has increased three points to minus 20; seven points lower than May 2016.

Shoppers sent the measure of the general economic situation over the last 12 months up three points to minus 20, while the figures show a two point increase in the major purchase index to positive nine - the same as this time last year and an indication of consumer confidence in buying big ticket items.

Mr Staton added: "Although the overall index score is bumping along in negative territory, we haven't seen any significant fall of the kind we might expect during such periods of pre-election and pre-Brexit uncertainty.

"Perhaps the real squeeze in living standards is yet to hit home. After years of people paying off debts post-downturn, unsecured borrowing has steadily increased since 2014 reaching record highs this month. When will we get our comeuppance and realise we have to pay the piper?"

The index follows the most recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) retail figures showing sales outstripping expectations to rise by 2.3% in April compared with the month before.

The ONS said sales were up by 4% compared with April last year, exceeding forecasts of 1% monthly growth and 2% year-on-year growth.

Meanwhile, the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index shows overall shop prices continue to fall year on year, albeit at the slowest rate since November 2013.

Belfast Telegraph