73% of UK Consumers Say They Are Not Optimistic About the Economy; Lowering Spend

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 29, 2020

UK consumer confidence in the economy is low as the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt with just 17% of British consumers saying they believe the economy will rebound in the next 2-3 months.

This according to the latest data collected on April 18th-19th, 2020 from global consulting firm McKinsey & Company. A quarter of consumers surveyed in the UK believe that COVID-19 will cause the economy to fall into a long-lasting recession. As such, 36% of consumers say they are cutting back on spending with a further 36% saying uncertainty is preventing them from making purchases they would normally make.

This contrasts greatly with consumers in China where 56% expect the economy to rebound within 2-3 months and in the US where 35% are still optimistic of a rapid recovery. Generally European consumers are much less optimistic, the exception being Germany where 24% expect the economy to bounce back within 2-3 months.

Aside from the economy, nearly two thirds of UK consumers are extremely or very concerned about the uncertainty of the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.  This is compounded by other top concerns for UK residents such as public health, safety and the health of vulnerable relatives.

Amid the new economic reality, British residents are starting to feel the effect of the crisis on their incomes with 30% noticing a reduction in their income, 50% thinking their finances will be impacted for four months or longer and 44% being very careful how they spend their money as a result.

Consumers around the world, including the UK, are universally pulling back on most discretionary spending. Some of the categories showing the most dramatic drops in UK spending include restaurants, apparel, footwear, accessories, travel, and entertainment out of home.  In the select categories where consumers expect to spend more (grocery and home-based entertainment), UK customers have switched to online shopping to make these purchases.  Many consumers have also switched brands and retailers, especially grocery stores, and more than half expect to stay with them after the crisis.

In response, consumers in the UK are starting to shift their behaviour as well, spending more time connecting virtually and consuming digital and live media. There has been a large increase in texting, messaging and chatting online as well watching live news and movies or reading the news online.   There has also been a recent increase in cooking and making home improvements.

In terms of changes to routine, 94% of UK consumers believe that it will be at least another two months before personal routines can start returning to normal.  However, even after COVID-19, consumers expect to do less shopping in physical stores, traveling and attending events.

Key findings from the UK:

  • Optimism in the UK is still low overall but has increased slightly since the start of April
  • British consumers are feeling an impact on their jobs and cutting back on their spending
  • About a third of UK consumers still expect to see a decline in household income and savings
  • There is an expectation of decreased spending across most categories except groceries and home entertainment.
  • Many consumers have switched brands and retailer, and more than half say they expect to stay with new brand after the crisis. 16% have changed their primary grocery store, of which 65% intend to continue.
  • UK consumers have picked up new digital activities such as online shopping, video chat and online fitness
  • The top concerns for UK consumers are uncertainty about the duration of the crisis, public health and the economy
  • Most British respondents continue to believe that the personal and financial impact of Covid-19 will last longer than 2 months

You can view the full report here.


McKinsey Marketing & Sales is part of the McKinsey & Company global management consulting firm that serves leading businesses, governments, non-governmental organisations, and not-for-profits. McKinsey comprises more than 12,000 consultants and nearly 2,000 research and information professionals. We help our clients make lasting improvements to their performance and realise their most important goals. Over nearly a century, we’ve built a firm uniquely equipped to this task.