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Brexit and Consumers

Consumer Insight Tracker

Our bi-monthly Consumer Insight Tracker is a nationally representative online survey of around 2,000 UK households running since June 2012.  For the November 2016 wave, we asked some questions in addition to our regular set to get a better understanding of consumer sentiment towards Brexit and related issues. 

Brexit Worry

In November we found that nearly half (47%) of the population were worried about ‘Brexit’ itself, an increase of 8 points since September 2016.

This overall UK figure masks some significant differences for subgroups of the population. In terms of region, The Scots were most worried (63%) followed by those in Northern Ireland (59%). Those in the South West were least worried (40%).

Age groups saw similar steep contrasts with 62% 18-29s worried about Brexit compared to just 33% of the over 65s.

The unemployed showed high rates of worry about Brexit (60%) in contrast to those employed full time who were much closer to the overall UK figure at 48%.

Other Worries

Our tracker finds that the highest levels of consumer worry are currently being experienced in relation to prices of essentials – Energy (64%), Fuel (64%) and Food (53%). The exchange rate is the next most worried about issue in our list with 53% of households concerned.

These worry levels are significantly higher than they were a year ago, although not as high as the levels observed in 2013/14. In November 2015 just 46% were worried about fuel prices, and 46% about food prices. These have both experienced nearly 20 percentage point increases, but the largest shift has been for the exchange rate which was a worry for just 17% of people in November 2015 and has increased by 36 points over the course of the year.

We also asked for the first time about a handful of issues that were more directly related to the Brexit referendum result. Of these, the highest percentages of people worried were seen for ‘the prices of holidays abroad’ at 39%. Around one in three were worried about the ability to travel around Europe easily (32%), food safety standards (32%), and the prices of electrical goods (31%). Just under a quarter (24%) were worried about their legal rights and protections when buying goods and services.

The Consumer Voice

When asked about official Brexit meetings and negotiations, 72% thought that the interests of consumers were either very or fairly important. This was the same proportion as thought the interests of the UK Government were important.

However, despite the high perceived importance of the consumer voice in Brexit negotiations and meetings, only 31% expected consumers’ interests to be represented. By contrast 71% expected the interests of large business to be represented.

Summary

In summary, the Which? Consumer Insight Tracker has highlighted that very different levels of worry about Brexit are apparent between sub-groups of the population, with lines drawn especially across age groups, regions/countries and employment statuses. Also, it finds that significantly more people were worried in November 2016 about the prices of essential goods and services (sensitive to Brexit related pressures) than was the case before, although there is still some way to go before these worries reach the levels seen in 2013/14. Finally despite their perceived importance in the context of ongoing Brexit negotiations, few members of the public expect consumer interests to be represented at all.

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