More consumers confident in UK economy than pessimistic, report finds

More people are feeling confident in the UK economy than those who are downbeat for the first time in at least two years, according to a report.

Barclaycard said consumer confidence has jumped to a new record high, with 48% of people feeling upbeat about the economy, while 47% are not confident and the remainder are not sure.

It is the first time that the percentage of people feeling upbeat has outweighed the percentage who are downbeat since Barclaycard's research started in September 2014.

Its most recent survey, involving 2,000 people, was carried out in September. It found seven in 10 (70%) people feel more secure about their household finances, with growing numbers confident about their ability to spend on non-essential items or to make a major purchase.

The 48% of people who are upbeat about the UK economy marks a big jump compared with April, before the EU referendum vote, when just over a third (34%) of people felt confident in the economy.

In July, just after the referendum vote, just 35% of people had felt confident in the UK economy, Barclaycard previously found.   

Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all the nation's credit and debit card transactions, also found consumers spent 4.2% more in September than they did in the same month a year earlier.

It was the joint-strongest month for spending growth seen this year, with the same increase also recorded in August. This followed spending growth of 2.6% in July. 

The unseasonably warm weather in September boosted spending on experiences significantly, Barclaycard said. Cinemas performed particularly strongly, as releases such as Bridget Jones's Baby and The Magnificent Seven hit UK screens, the report said.

Consumers took advantage of the warmer weather and spent in pubs and restaurants, pushing up spending growth in both to a 20 and 15-month high respectively.

Shoppers cut back on the high street, however, leading to spending on clothing and department stores being reined in. Nearly one in four (23%) people said the warm weather dissuaded them from updating their autumn wardrobe.

Paul Lockstone, managing director at Barclaycard, said: "For the first time since Barclaycard began tracking consumer confidence in 2014, more people now tell us they feel confident about the UK economy than those who don't, and the proportion has jumped since the EU referendum vote in June.

"This recovery in confidence, combined with the warmer September weather, helped to prolong the summer feeling amongst consumers last month. Increased spend on experiences, and in particular with friends and family in pubs and restaurants, delivered one of the strongest months for spend growth so far this year."

The report also suggests mixed fortunes are ahead for high street retailers, as consumers plan for the festive season.

The majority (57%) of people expect to spend money during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales periods, with clothing purchases, smartphones, tablets and video games high on wish-lists. But nearly four in 10 (39%) people surveyed said they plan to spend less than last year.

The research comes after a report from Visa UK found on Monday that households' spending showed "renewed signs of life" in September. 

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