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Consumer confidence takes a tumble

Consumer confidence levels in Britain were a disappointing nine points lower in the first quarter of 2011 than at the end of 2010.

The dramatic decline is shown by the latest figures from the Nielsen Company and the British Retail Consortium (BRC).The GB Consumer Confidence index - part of the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Survey - fell sharply against a global backdrop of growing optimism.

18 out of 51 countries covered by the survey saw confidence rise over the period.

Fears about job prospects drove down confidence levels in Britain as 77 per cent of respondents here felt that job prospects were not so good or bad, versus a global average of 49 per cent.

The survey suggests that we are becoming a nation of 'savers'. Despite low interest rates, the most popular thing to do with spare cash is put it into savings with 34 per cent of respondents trying to save where possible. The next choice for spare cash is spending it on holidays but 30 per cent of GB respondents said that they had no spare cash, the highest percentage the survey has recorded.

Nearly one third of those polled cited the Economy as a major concern (18 per cent said this was their number 1 concern with a further 12 per cent citing it as their second concern). Fuel prices continue to worry Britain as 21 per cent of respondents cited this as either their 1st or 2nd concern. Globally, respondents were most concerned about rising food prices. In the UK 85 per cent of those polled believe we are still in recession (up from 82 per cent in the previous quarter).

Chris Morley, Group Managing Director of Nielsen UK & Ireland commented: "The long hard winter and continuous media coverage of UK debt levels and cuts in the public sector are all taking their toll on consumer confidence in the UK. I would envisage a continuation of lower confidence as consumers are still being very cautious in their spending intentions."

Seven out of the top ten most optimistic countries hailed from Asia Pacific, while European markets dominated nine out of the top ten most pessimistic nations. India remained the most optimistic country in the first quarter with a Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) of 131 followed by Saudi Arabia and Indonesia."

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Nearly a third of people now say they have no spare money because households are suffering a squeeze between high inflation and low wage growth. In real terms, disposable incomes have fallen for the first time in 30 years.

"With inflation expected to rise further and average earnings showing only minimal growth, disposable incomes will be under continuing pressure for the rest of the year and beyond.

"The prospect of interest rates beginning to rise as the housing market weakens can only dent consumer confidence further over the coming months."

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