Asda mums’ optimism turns Mumdex positive for first time

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Mothers across the UK are feeling more optimistic than at any time over the last two years, a major report will reveal next week.

Asda’s Mumdex tracks sentiment across four indicators – economy, community spirit, household finances and quality of life – and is based on feedback from more than 11,000 mothers.

The latest survey shows a reading of +2 – the first positive reading since Asda launched the index in February 2012. Last May it stood at -16, and the figure for the first quarter of this year was as low as -18.

Bee Rycroft, PR manager for Asda, said: “For a long time everyone in London has been talking about the return of consumer confidence, but there’s been a delay of about 14 months for that to filter out to the regions. These figures appear to indicate that it’s happening now.”

Asda’s figures show some regional variations. The North is still in negative territory at -2, but is nevertheless looking far more optimistic than it was in February, when it registered -21. Even the most pessimistic region, Northern Ireland (-6), appears considerably more optimistic than at any time since the index began. The South is the most optimistic region, at +5, /and Scotland also shows considerable optimism at +4.

Asda’ Income Tracker survey also showed that discretionary incomes – what’s left once taxes and essential spending have been deducted – in Yorkshire and the Humber grew at an increased rate of 3.6 per cent in the first quarter.

The Mumdex figures come just as a closely-watched survey shows that British consumer morale improved further in April, reaching its highest level since before the start of the financial crisis in 2007.

GfK’s consumer confidence index rose by two points to -3 in April. A year ago it stood at -27.

Nick Moon, managing director of social research at GfK, welcomed the data.

“The seemingly inexorable rise of the index continues alongside a number of other economic indicators that continue to provide good news for the government,” he said.

Gerard Lane of Shore Capital Stockbrokers said the survey highlighted the growing degree of confidence across the country.

“With solid economic growth the UK consumer is, at last, feeling the benefits of economic recovery, which is extending beyond that dependent on the housing market, in our view.”

But while three of the five measures used to calculate the index score saw increases, the other two – including personal finance situation – stayed the same.

Andrew McPhillips, economist at the Yorkshire Building Society, said it was important to look beyond the headline figure.

“There seems to be a huge increase in confidence about general economic performance over the last 12 months and next 12 months, but if you look at the personal finance figures, we’re back to where we were in 2009.

“That indicates that people think the economy’s improving, but there’s still a long way to go before they start to feel the benefit. In effect, people are saying ‘the economy will do well, but I’m not sure I will’.

“They’re much better figures than this time last year, but there’s still cause for concern, and that’s backed up by what’s coming out the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. They want to see a sustained period of above-inflation wage increases, because they want to know that if they raise interest rates, people’s personal finances will be able to cope.”

He added that while Yorkshire still lagged behind the South, and had higher unemployment than many other regions, its strength in manufacturing could help turn the situation around.

“Manufacturing is getting stronger, so the region could stand to benefit from that. Then we could start to see the positive sentiment spread and Yorkshire start to catch up with London and the South East.”