The emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus has dealt a blow to Brits’ optimism, according to a closely watched survey published today.
Consumer confidence edged back one point over the last month to minus 15 in December, research by GfK found.
The dip has been driven by households’ confidence in their personal finances over the coming year taking a hit.
The survey indicates measures to curb the spread of the new variant and concern about catching it is already swaying consumers toward adopting a more caution approach.
Omicron has intensified uncertainty over the health of the UK economy over the coming months as virus restrictions dial up once again in a bid to curb infections.
Workers in the hospitality industry are facing a bleak Christmas period due to consumers cutting back on socialising to avoid catching the new strain.
Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, said: “News about the Omicron variant could not have arrived at a worse time for festive celebrations.”
“As thoughts began turning to Christmas and the New Year, Omicron jumped out of nowhere and threatened to bring Santa’s sleigh crashing to a halt.”
The list of problems stinging households is piling up.
The cost of living rose to a more than 10-year high last month, scaling to 5.1 per cent, up from 4.2 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics, while looming tax hikes will pinch households’ income.
Higher prices are deterring consumers from committing to big ticket purchases, with GfK’s major purchase index dialling back three points to minus six in December.
The figures are likely to alarm high street retailers who tend to rely on Brits ramping up spending over the Christmas period to tip them into the black.