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UK: Anatomy of the consumer 2024

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What are UK consumers buying? We surveyed more than 2,000 people to discover their views. While consumer spirits are lifting, UK households are taking time to recover from a period of high inflation.

  • Our proprietary survey looks at UK consumer trends after a period of high inflation
  • We find UK consumers are prioritising holiday spending and entertainment appears resilient, but eating out has come under pressure
  • Cost of living pressures could be preventing more sustainable choices

Finding a new normal

What are UK consumers buying? The latest edition of our proprietary “Anatomy of the consumer” survey offers a snapshot of the key UK consumer trends and views after a period of high inflation.

In February this year, we commissioned Toluna to gauge the views of 2,000 UK consumers through 80 questions. The survey took place during a period of economic uncertainty, with disinflation and some small signs of receding pressure on consumers. Respondents included a representative UK cross-section of gender, age and income groups.

We found that consumer spirits have improved slightly from last year. Respondents are slightly less worried about the cost of living – 70% said they were worried vs 73% in 2023. They are less likely to take on debt and more confident that the value of their homes will rise. However, people are less optimistic on pay, less likely to move jobs and still cite the cost of living as their biggest concern.

On environmental, social and governance issues, our survey responses show little momentum in consumers switching to sustainable products. Nevertheless, participation in ethical practices in transport, plastics, diet and fashion continues – from reusing carrier bags, to consuming more plant-based meals.

The cost-of-living crisis has had an apparently sticky impact on the consumer psyche, especially around value-seeking. Price is an increasingly important factor for shoppers. In non-food retail, post-pandemic consumer spending trends have seen a pronounced rotation back into physical and/or omni-channel routes to market and away from online-only retailers.

Consumers look set to prioritise travel – 30% of consumers said they expected to spend more on holidays this year. Eating out appears to be under pressure. Meanwhile, entertainment appears to be a relatively resilient area of spend versus other categories.

Consumer research stats

Our survey offers a timely reminder that although things may be getting better, the UK household sector has been dealt a blow from which it will take time to recover.

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