Consumer confidence dealt a blow by COVID-19 restrictions


Recent measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 have seen consumer sentiment fall from -1 in September to -10 according to new data from PwC. This is the sharpest decline since the first lockdown began in March 2020. Despite a summer recovery to pre pandemic levels, this latest survey reveals a consistent fall in confidence across all regions.  

The UK-wide consumer sentiment survey charts the opinions of over 2,000 adults and was conducted between 6th-8th November - with England in the midst of a second lockdown, Wales at the end of its firebreak, and Scotland and Northern Ireland still subject to significant restrictions, but before the news of a possible successful vaccine was announced. 

The survey shows a variation in sentiment across age groups. The most dramatic fall in confidence is amongst under 25 year olds. However, on balance, they remain the most positive age range followed closely by 25-34 year olds. Those over 65 years old seem to have been largely unaffected, where sentiment remains almost unchanged. 

The over 65’s have seemingly had to make little or no financial sacrifices compared to those of working age. When asked how they had been affected since the start of the pandemic in March, just 13% had either lost any of their income or had to make financial compromises, compared with over half of under 35 year olds.

In a separate survey of 2,003 adults across the UK between 5-6 November, PwC asked if people agreed with the lockdown or current restrictive measures. The majority of people, 54%, agreed that with the closure of non-essential shops as part of lockdown, firebreak or Tier 4 restrictions, with only 22% disagreeing. So while there is a drop-off in sentiment, people clearly agree with the reasons for doing it.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets lead at PwC, said;

“The latest restrictions across the UK have shown how fragile consumer sentiment is despite what was a promising bounceback in the summer. Lockdowns and restrictions clearly impact the public mood, especially amongst young adults, who have been the most impacted financially and are most uncertain of what is to come.

“However, we know from our previous surveys how resilient consumer sentiment is. We’re likely to see a rebound, particularly for the younger demographic, in the run up to Christmas as they respond positively to announcements around successful vaccines, mass testing and for many returning home from university for the festive period.

“If this is the case then retailers must hold their nerve and prepare for a late shopping surge. So, provided lockdown is lifted on December 3rd, there may be some better news to come for the sector.”


Notes to editors

About the survey findings

PwC asked the question “Thinking about your disposable income (money remaining after household bills, credit cards, etc.), in the next 12 months do you expect that your household will be better off or worse off?” PwC then calculated the “consumer sentiment index” by subtracting the percentage of people who thought they would be worse off from those who thought they would be better off.

PwC has asked the same question every few months since April 2008. In the latest survey, PwC spoke to a nationally representative sample of 2,087 adults between 6th and 8th November 2020.

PwC  has continued to ask this same question every few months since April 2008. The results have given insight into the pulse of the nation, and have been a good indicator of future consumer spending patterns.

For more information please visit the website.

Additional survey results from a nationally representative sample of 2,003 adults between 5th and 6th November. 

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