Shoppers don't feel too good

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The Independent Online
The consumer "feel good" factor is still missing, according to a new survey. People are set to tighten their belts in the coming year, with more than half saying they intend to save more and pay off their debts and few planning to spend much in t he January sales.

A survey by National Opinion Poll, published yesterday, says that only 12 per cent are spending more in the sales than last year. Twenty-nine per cent plan to spend the same, 31 per cent less and 27 per cent say they will not spend anything.

The poll coincides with a warning that overall retail sales may decline later this year compared with 1994, the first drop since the depths of the recession in 1990 and 1991.

The survey, commissioned from NOP by Vauxhall's GM credit card, confirms the absence of the feel-good factor: the Government's contention that the economy is improving is widely disbelieved. Thirty-eight per cent of those questioned believed the economy was static last year, 33 per cent said it had deteriorated and only 27 per cent believed it had improved.

Over half think their finances will remain static over the next year. Twenty-nine per cent expect them to improve and 19 per cent think they will get worse. However, there are some indications of an upturn in Christmas spending. A third of people said they spent more than in 1993, 41 per cent the same and 24 per cent less. Northerners, people with children and those in the 18-to-34 age group, were among the heavier spenders.

The survey also found that gloom about personal finances correlates closely with age. Forty-eight per cent of 18-to-34-year-olds believe their finances will improve this year, with only 15 per cent of those aged 51 and over. GM Vauxhall said people were displaying a mixture of caution and optimism. "They are considering their purchases more carefully and saying: `Let's pull in our belts, let's be smarter about our spending and canny about our savings.' "

Verdict Research, a leading firm of research analysts, said the survey confirmed its view that Christmas sales would show only a very modest overall increase of about 2.5 per cent over 1993 and that the January sales had failed to generate the "excitement" of previous years.

The British Retail Consortium also said Christmas trading and January sales would probably show only modest volume increases on the previous year.

Hugh Clark, the consortium's trading policy director, said: "To achieve continuous modest growth is all the retail industry can expect nowadays. Trading has been hard going; the heady days of the Eighties are gone."

Dixons results, page 32

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