Brexit Britain shopping: Guess what the latest survey shows?

Brett Britain/Union JackSome good news that suggests a healthy chunk of shoppers are still willing to spend post-Brexit vote. Retail marketing agency Live & Breathe has found that despite consumer confidence being low, most UK shoppers don’t have any immediate plans to change their spending (including Christmas 2016).

The survey of 1,000 adult shoppers from across the UK found that 58% will spend as much as ever on clothing and 59% plan to keep their Christmas 2016 spending plans on a par with what they’ve done before

But women are far more nervous about the impact of Brexit on their shopping spend than men, and younger shoppers (who mainly voted to stay in the EU) are clearly more nervous about the outcome of a departure from the trading bloc.

The data about younger shoppers doesn’t surprise me. Back in the dark days of the last financial crisis (around 2008), a colleague of mine in her mid-20s asked me, wide-eyed and clearly worried, “what’s it like living through a recession?”

She’d never really seen one of those, let alone one with the moniker ‘crisis’ in her young-adult lifetime and had visions of the sky turning green, the grass turning blue and demons merging from alternate dimensions.

It seems some young people feel much the same now as a world they’ve grown up in and never expected to leave change beyond recognition. Apart from the (ironic) words “thanks Gran”, the next thing that springs to mind is “what next?”

Well what’s next, much as I abhor the vote to leave the EU, is actually likely to be ‘same old, same old’ (up to a certain point). And lots of shoppers feel the same way.

So back to the survey. It found that nearly two thirds (63%) say they plan to spend the same amount on food despite Brexit, 58% will spend as much as ever on clothing and 59% plan to keep their Christmas 2016 spending plans on a par with what they’ve done before.

Brett Britain/Union JackIn fact, ‘spend the same’ was the highest-ranked choice for every type of purchase, from insurance and charitable donations to holidays and eating out. The category where it scored lowest was for ‘home help’ (window washing, dry cleaning etc), but even there 45% of consumers say they plan to spend as much as always.

OK, what the survey round-up isn’t saying is that big percentages still plan to spend less. It’s these people who could make or break things for retailers.

In any recession, or even in a depression like the 1930s, those with an income (earned or unearned) may feel it’s less ‘safe’ and so crimp their spending so some of those not in the ‘business as usual’ group will be the worried-but-still-earning. Others will be those who lose their jobs or whose income drops.

And when any of those groups cut back, the first things to go are usually non-necessities. So it’s no surprise the top-ranked categories where people think they will spend less because of Brexit are leisure activities and eating out, both of which saw 16% of shoppers saying they expect to curb their expenditures.

And if people also cut back on their window cleaner, general cleaner and so on, that’s likely to have an adverse knock-on effect on many lower-apis self-employed people.

Of the finding that women are more nervous than men, it seems that in most categories they’re more likely than men to expect to spend less: 18% think their leisure spending will go down (versus 14% of men) and 16% expect to spend less on clothing, as against only one in eight men (12%).

And a quarter (25%) of those aged 18-24 of any gender expect to spend less on leisure activities like cinema trips because of Brexit, as opposed to only 13% of those aged over 45. Furthermore, one in five of those aged 25-34 expend to spend less on property and buying a home, while 17% of them also expect to spend less than before on savings and pension contributions.

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