'Glimmer of hope' for next year


The weekly family budget available for discretionary, non-essential spending has stabilised after falling for three months, according to a survey from Asda.

It said the average UK household had £158 a week of discretionary income in October, unchanged on the same month the year before. It is the first time since June that this figure has not fallen year-on-year.
The Asda Income Tracker figure should provide a degree of hope for retailers, under pressure to deliver a bumper Christmas performance after a summer sales splurge was followed by a subdued autumn.

It comes as department store John Lewis prompted hopes that shoppers were starting to return to spending as it notched up weekly sales of more than £100 million for the first time this year.
The Asda figures recorded a sharp fall in annual essential item inflation, down 0.7% to 2.1%, its lowest rate since February 2010. Mortgage payments were also down while fuel prices dropped too.

However, incomes were squeezed by low wage growth, with latest official figures showing average regular pay up just 0.8%., while rising energy costs are also putting budgets under strain.

Asda chief executive Andy Clarke, said the fall in essential item inflation and stabilising of spending power would bring a welcome respite for customers.

But they still faced a challenging Christmas as improvements in the wider economy took time to filter through to regions hardest hit by the economic downturn, he added.

"There is a glimmer of hope that we're on the right track for 2014. But without a substantial improvement in income growth the journey to recovery will be slow."

A Treasury spokesman said: "This Asda survey is the latest sign that Britain's hard work is paying off and the country is on the path to prosperity. But times remain tough for many people."

© 2013 Press Association
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