Consumer confidence falls in December amid Omicron fears

The headline figure is actually two points lower compared with the same period last year

Pre-Christmas consumer confidence has fallen one point to -15 in the UK, according to GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index, as the impact of the latest Omicron variant takes hold on shoppers.

The headline figure, which is actually two points lower compared with the same period last year, comes as two measures were up, and three were down compared with November’s index.

GfK found the index measuring changes in personal finances over the last 12 months has increased two points to -5; this is four points better than December 2020. The measure for the general economic situation of the country during the last 12 months is also one point better at -39; this is 26 points higher than in December 2020.

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However, it found the Major Purchase Index has decreased by three points to -6 in December; this is 16 points higher than it was this month last year. The Savings Index also weakened by one point to +14 in December; this is three points lower than this time last year.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK, said: “News about the Omicron variant could not have arrived at a worse time for festive celebrations. As thoughts began turning to Christmas and the New Year, Omicron jumped out of nowhere and threatened to bring Santa’s sleigh crashing to a halt.

“While the holiday season has not yet been hijacked, December’s headline score has slipped one point to -15 and the lack of Yuletide cheer is evident.”

He added: “Both measures that look at how people see the coming year have slipped – down one point for personal finances over the next 12 months and down one point for the wider economy during 2022. This is driven by concerns over the soaring cost of living with the prospect of looming interest rate rises piling on more pressure. And dispirited Brits say they are less inclined to make major purchases during the countdown to Christmas.

“We end 2021 on a slightly depressed note and it looks like it will be a bleak midwinter for UK consumer confidence possibly with new COVID curbs and little likelihood of any real uplift in the first months of 2022.”

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