Gemma Stevenson writes:
The scale of consumer debt in this country is now pretty well-known – whether it’s the £1,000 million of mortgage debt or the fact that overall consumer indebtedness now exceeds annual national income. But one of the big surprises for me when I attended a breakfast briefing we ran for public sector clients today was how people feel about it.
Research data shows that between 2002 and 2007 the number of people agreeing with the statement “I am happy to have short term debt to allow me to buy the things I want” fell from 43% to 32% – a clear and significant shift in consumer attitudes. (Click on ther thumbnail above to see the chart). Yet the question raised on Wednesday was ‘when will this lead to a change in behaviour?’ This doesn’t seem to have happened yet, despite the attitudinal data. Yet at the same time, there are ‘weak signals‘ of change out there, such as the relatively rapid rise of local freecycle groups.
One thought that emerged from the discussion was that the debt conundrum had similarities with public health issues such as obesity: that providers had to change their behaviour, perhaps nudged along by regulators, before consumer behaviour starts to change in line with underlying attitudes.