The final quarter of 2020 saw consumer confidence in Scotland fall by a further two percentage points, to -18%, as the country headed into the New Year under fresh lockdown restrictions.
The latest Deloitte Consumer Tracker revealed that with the exception of personal finances, all other measures of confidence were below year-on-year comparisons, with ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘children’s education and welfare’ categories reaching historic lows.
The analysis is based on a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 UK consumers – 295 of which were in Scotland – between 1 and 4 January, after a Brexit deal had been reached and as a third national lockdown was announced.
The emergence of a more virulent strain of Covid-19 saw Scottish confidence around health and wellbeing fall 11% to the lowest level ever recorded at -39%.
In Scotland, overall sentiment on levels of household disposable income rose to -12%, showing consumers are slightly more positive than across the rest of the UK, where sentiment sits at -17%.
With many UK consumers working from home, free of commuting costs and unable to spend on holidays or socialising, 31% of respondents said their savings had increased in 2020 – with Millennials leading the way on 35%.
By contrast, 29% of consumers said their savings had decreased over the same period, with 30% of Generation X and 30% of Baby Boomers each falling into this category.
Consumer confidence on the state of the economy was buoyed in the final quarter of the year by news of an agreed Brexit deal, however the economic impact of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions saw economic sentiment remain extremely negative, at -73%.
In Scotland, this was five percentage points lower at -78%, but this was a 10% increase on the third quarter figure.
Tighter restrictions over the Christmas period negatively impacted on spending across almost every leisure category in the final quarter of 2020.
With few options available, consumers turned to in-house leisure, such as on-demand TV and at-home exercise classes, which saw a 10% jump on the previous year.
However, with social distancing restrictions in place, restaurants, pubs and cafés were, by contrast, hardest hit with year-on-year spend on eating and drinking out declining by -49 and -41%, respectively.
Gavin Hood, advisory corporate finance partner at Deloitte in Scotland, said: “In what should have been one of the busiest times of the year for the leisure, travel and hospitality sectors, most businesses had to endure tighter restrictions as a result of a new virus variant, forcing the vast majority of businesses to remain closed.”
Whilst UK consumers remain cautiously optimistic about the prospect of summer holidays, Scot’s seemed less so, with confidence around both short and long holidays falling to -19% in the fourth quarter.
This contrasts with UK consumers, where there was a 7% increase to -14% and -15% respectively, when compared to the third quarter.
Hood concluded: “The first quarter of the year is usually an important booking period for the travel sector, however the continued uncertainty has delayed consumer travel plans until later in the year and, for some, even into next year.”