Household budgets tighten again while retail sales slide in August

Alys Key
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Retail sales were down as struggling households held onto their pennies (Source: Getty)

Figures released today show that UK household income has fallen for the fifth month in a row.

The data, from YouGov, follows the release of the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) monthly retail sales yesterday, which showed that retail sales fell at the fastest rate in more than a year as consumers were squeezed by higher prices.

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YouGov found that household finances have declined for the fifth month in a row, an unprecedented event since it began tracking the metric.

Meanwhile the CBI said that the UK sales balance slid to minus 10 in August, down from 22 last month, the lowest since July 2016.

Even summer spending did not boost sales, with retail performance for this time of year considered to be below seasonal norms to the greatest extent since October 2014.

Read more: London shoppers rein in spending as footfall lags national average

“Looking ahead, firms do expect sales growth to recover," said Anna Leach, CBI's head of economic intelligence "But the pressures on household budgets are set to persist, given little sign of wages picking up.”

Despite growing pressure on household finances, YouGov's survey of more than 6,000 people found that consumer confidence has hit its highest level since the General Election.

Analysis by YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) showed that the consumer confidence index is at 107.6 this month, up from 107.2 in July. Any score over 100 means more consumers are confident than not confident.

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Of the five measures used to determine confidence, sentiment improved in two: job security and house values. More consumers were confident of these being positive in the next year.

However, both were at levels lower than seen prior to the General Election.

“Although this month’s consumer confidence figures bring good news, they have to be placed in context – they have not yet returned to where they were ahead of the election," said Stephen Harmston, head of YouGov.

This is demonstrated vividly when it comes to homeowners’ expectations over the coming year. While there has been a notable improvement on this measure, it is still someway short of where it was in May and even further away from where it was ahead of last year’s EU referendum.”

Nina Skero, head of macroeconomics at Cebr, added: "At the moment the UK economy is treading water rather than making waves – the question being whether this is a relatively good or bad thing."

Read more: Spending rises as households forced to shell out more for weekly shop

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