i Editor's Letter: This miserable 'summer'


Click to follow
The Independent Online


Been to the shops lately? It's a rhetorical question. Many of us go most days. What's different this miserable "summer" is that – food and luxury goods for the super-rich aside – we're mostly just window-shopping.

Soon, we will all see how little we've been buying, as retailers post second-quarter results. It does not take an economist to work out that, given the wettest April to June on record, for once blaming the weather may be valid. Good luck to Robert Dyas, B&Q, Homebase and Halfords etc.

It is dangerous to extrapolate trends from personal habits, but here goes. Since I bought a gas canister for the barbecue at Easter, I have not used it once. I haven't bought a single item of summer clothing or footwear; ditto tickets to outdoor events (bar the Olympics). Nor did I buy any associated barbecue or picnic foods; nor extra creams, be they ice or sun; nor a case of rosé wine (it doesn't taste the same in the rain); nor get emotionally blackmailed into a ride on a newly fixed bike. I've not even slipped new garden furniture past my frugal Ma. And, if I haven't, then some of you haven't.

But, it's not just the weather, it's "consumer confidence". If we are nervous of losing our jobs, or in despair of ever finding one, we won't get the electrician in to fix the lights, let alone splash out on a new bicycle for the children, or buy a new sofa on which to watch the Games. Belatedly, the sun is to put its hat on next week, but I would not bet my shirt on consumer confidence increasing any time soon, regardless of a welcome, small fall in the number of unemployed. And that is a huge, largely unspoken, problem.