Why the British are out-shopping Europe

Share

Anyone who has visited the local high street or suburban shopping centre in recent weeks – and, to judge by the crowds thronging the aisles and the cars queuing for parking spaces, that is most of us – can testify that our enthusiasm for shopping is undimmed. Others may have lost their nerve in the wake of the global economic slowdown and the terrorist attacks of 11 September, but we British have carried on spending.

Anyone who has visited the local high street or suburban shopping centre in recent weeks – and, to judge by the crowds thronging the aisles and the cars queuing for parking spaces, that is most of us – can testify that our enthusiasm for shopping is undimmed. Others may have lost their nerve in the wake of the global economic slowdown and the terrorist attacks of 11 September, but we British have carried on spending.

We may, of course, have become so uniquely inured to forecasts of doom that we have learnt to dismiss them on the grounds that, at least some of the time, the worst does not happen. The list of fears we are currently refusing to face includes possible leaps in tax rates or unemployment, the dwindling of our future pensions and a fall in the value of the pound if the euro turns out to be a success.

Now, though, it seems that the wave of consumer confidence we are riding may not be so irrational after all. New figures show that this year's seasonal spending spree has a sound economic foundation. We have, dare we say it, been doing rather well as a nation – even though sectors such as the big airlines and tourism have faced hard times since 11 September. In the past decade, our average wealth has overtaken that of the average German and French citizen, taking us from 10th to 4th position in the European Union in terms of per capita GDP. At the same time, our economy has grown faster than that of any of the 12 countries about to adopt the euro.

So while we may be deluding ourselves about the dangers ahead, our current sense of wellbeing is eminently justified. It is not only that most of us feel richer, but we actually are richer: richer not only than we were, but than our most comparable neighbours. No wonder we have been hitting the shops so assiduously, and no wonder so many of us are heading away for the holidays. After all, our currency is also worth more against most of the eurozone currencies than it was 10 years ago.

The beneficial exchange rate, it is true, distorts the picture to an extent, enhancing the value of our wealth against that of our neighbours – an advantage that could rapidly shift. But exchange rates are also a measure of international confidence: they show that it is not only we who feel good about our financial circumstances, but others as well. And anyway, confidence breeds confidence. So perhaps we are right to just relax and enjoy our good fortune.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders