Consumer confidence takes a hit amid focus on health and wellbeing

UK consumer confidence stumbled in the first quarter, driven by increasing concerns about health and wellbeing, a survey has found.

The fall in overall confidence was driven partly by an unusually large seasonal drop in confidence about general wellbeing as the flu season arrived later than usual and media coverage focused on health issues such as the sugar tax debate, according to Deloitte's latest consumer tracker.

The quarterly survey of 3,000 UK consumers found the confidence reading for health and wellbeing has fallen by six points from the first quarter of last year to its lowest level since the survey began in 2011.

Deloitte's head of consumer business research, Ben Perkins, said: "The UK's consumers are increasingly health-conscious. The flu season arriving later than usual and extensive media coverage around health in the first three months of the year seem to have focused consumers' attention on health and wellbeing as an issue.

"In addition, the recent sugar tax debate, as well as the growing use of health and fitness wearables and apps may also be increasing consumers' awareness of their own wellbeing."

The tracker indicated that consumers have become more measured in their spending and are expected to spend more on essentials, such as groceries, and less on utilities and big-ticket items in the coming months, possibly in anticipation of political and economic uncertainty in the short term.

The confidence gap between homeowners and non-homeowners is now at its widest point since the tracker began, the survey found, with non-homeowners reporting a four point fall in confidence from the previous quarter.

London-based consumers were significantly less optimistic than those in other regions, with overall confidence in the capital falling by 10 points year-on-year.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: "For UK consumers, homeownership is synonymous with financial security. Those in 'generation rent' are starting to feel the impact of private rental prices having outstripped wage increases in recent years.

"London, with its particular exposure to developments in the global economy and financial markets, has seen a particularly marked drop in confidence."

Mr Stewart said: "Despite what appears to be near-perfect economic fundamentals for UK consumers, with low unemployment, low cost of borrowing, low inflation and rising wages, confidence has taken a knock.

"Confidence in the general economic situation is now 18 points lower than at the same time last year. Greater risks in the global economy and domestic uncertainty in the run up to the EU referendum on June 23 seem to have unsettled consumers."

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