UK consumers less optimistic than rest of the world, but ¾ plan to spend more or the same this year

19 April 2018

By Lisa Hooker, UK Leader of Consumer Markets at PwC

Welcome to the 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey (GCIS). This is an expanded version of our decade long Total Retail survey. It’s our biggest global consumer survey and now captures the voices and shopping behaviours of over 22,000 consumers in 27 countries.

So, what has the research told us this year, both globally and closer to home in the UK?

First, some top-line findings on consumer sentiment. Globally, consumers are upbeat about the future of the economy, over one-third think it will improve in 2018 and a further 40% say it will stay the same.

Here in the UK they’re not quite so optimistic - just 16% expect the economy to perform better and 37% expect it to perform worse. More positively, almost three-quarters predict they will spend more or the same than they did last year. Those holding back are most concerned about Brexit (70%), inflation (61%) and fuel prices (50%).

Turning to the UK findings on buying behaviours, the gap is narrowing between PC (25%) and mobile (22%) as a frequent (daily/weekly) shopping method. But shopping in-store is still a firm favourite, with 41% of regular shopping being done on the high street. So, things may be looking up for the high street after a tough few months.

But what items we buying online? When we ask UK shoppers how many online purchases they’ve made over the past 12 months, the top categories are clothing and footwear (82%) and books and music (79%).

While buying groceries online is still niche in some markets, there’s clear room for further growth, with 32% of UK consumers saying they’re “extremely likely” to purchase groceries online over the next 12 months. Not surprisingly, consumers in full-time employment are more likely to say this, at 38%.

An international comparison confirms UK consumers are more likely to buy their groceries online than shoppers in many other countries. The world’s top three countries are China, Vietnam and Thailand but the UK comes a close fourth. And 35-44 year olds account for almost half of all UK consumers who say they’re “extremely likely” to buy groceries online, underlining the growth opportunity for retailers who move swiftly to capitalise on it.

Diving into what we might term the “disruptor” topic, our GCIS provides further evidence – if it were needed – that the rise of digital continues in the UK, with 90% of respondents saying they shop with Amazon, and 39% saying they start their product search there. However, only 3% now say this has stopped them shopping on other retailers’ websites. Could this be the start of a step-change?

That said, Amazon Prime continues to demonstrate that subscription models can be a successful consumer channel, with 38% of Amazon users also being Prime members, with 80% believing it gives them value for money. Interestingly, people within that 38% are more likely to be aged 25-34 and to own an AI device such as a voice recognition gadget. Unlimited free delivery (82%) and access to entertainment (57%) are seen as the most obvious benefits of Prime membership.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of the headline findings from our 2018 GCIS. I think we’ve got some more great insights coming up. Please feel free to click through to explore the full global research for yourself. In the meantime, we’re going to press ahead with a series of blogs on specific themes from the research. Stay tuned for our next blog in the GCIS series on consumer trust.

Lisa Hooker
UK Leader of Consumer Markets at PwC

Tel: +44 (0) 7802 882562 


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