Northern Irish consumers most pessimistic about UK’s economic prospects, Which? report finds

People in Northern Ireland are the most pessimistic about the UK’s economic prospects – with energy, fuel and Brexit their main worries, according to Which?’s first Consumer Insight Report for Northern Ireland.

The consumer champion’s in-depth analysis for 2018 unpicks the trends and financial outlook of the average consumer in Northern Ireland and brings together extensive research garnered from speaking to a total of 1,009 people throughout the year.

Two in five (42%) of people surveyed believed the UK’s economy was in a poor state, and three in five (60%) thought it would worsen in the year ahead. Across the UK as a whole, only half (49%) anticipated the economy would worsen.

Which? found fuel prices was the issue people in Northern Ireland were most concerned about – with three-quarters (74%) anxious about rising costs compared to two-thirds (68%) in the UK as a whole.

Seven in 10 (71%) were worried about Brexit and public spending cuts, compared to six in ten (61%) and 66 per cent respectively across the UK.

Energy bills and the cost of groceries were also among the most common worries for consumers in Northern Ireland – around two-thirds were anxious about energy (68%) and 66 per cent about food prices.

More people in Northern Ireland expected to increase spending on everyday essentials compared to consumers across the UK, as around two in five (43%) anticipated their energy bills would rise compared to a third (33%) in the UK, and nearly four in ten (37%) predicted fuel costs associated with running a car would increase compared with 31 per cent in the UK.

Around a third (34%) anticipated the cost of groceries would increase, while one in five (20%) said the same about rent or mortgage repayments.

Despite their pessimistic view of the economy, more people in Northern Ireland were satisfied with their life overall (71%), compared to two-thirds UK-wide (65%), and just over half (51%) said their household finances were good, reflecting the UK figure of 49 per cent.

When it came to levels of trust, Which? found the water industry was the most trusted sector of Northern Ireland’s economy – nearly two-thirds (64%) trusted in their water provider compared to six in 10 (59%) in the UK.

This was closely followed by the food and grocery industry, with 63 per cent saying they trusted this sector, and the domestic and tech appliances industries, which had 58 per cent and 54 per cent trust respectively.  

Car dealers and estate and letting agents were the least frequently trusted industries in Northern Ireland – only enjoying 11 per cent and 14 per cent trust respectively. The rail industry was also among the least frequently trusted industry, but while only a third (34%) said they had confidence in the rail sector, this was more than the UK on average where only a quarter (24%) trust rail companies.

Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said:

“This report highlights a worrying sense of pessimism among consumers in Northern Ireland, with Brexit, fuel costs and public spending weighing on people’s minds more than anywhere else in the UK.

“With uncertainty around Brexit and Stormont politics looming large, politicians, regulators and businesses in Northern Ireland must take heed of these findings and work to ensure consumers are not getting a raw deal when it comes to essential services.”

Notes to editor

  • The Consumer Insight Tracker has conducted bi-monthly surveys of more than 2,000 consumers per survey across the UK to gauge perception of and attitudes to the consumer landscape. To understand the key consumer attitudes in 2018, Which? has boosted these data to a minimum of 1,000 consumers in each region of the UK. This report is based on a sample of 1,009 respondents from Northern Ireland.
  • To find out more, visit our Consumer Insight page at, where you can access our data on consumer attitudes, perceptions and concerns broken down to the constituency level across the UK.
  • Please see the full Northern Ireland Consumer Insight Report below:

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