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Sept. 25, 2020, 1:12 a.m. EDT

UK consumer confidence edges up, but woes persist

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By Xavier Fontdegloria

Consumer sentiment in the U.K. ticked up slightly in September despite the increase in Covid-19 infections, but remained at depressed levels amid economic headwinds, data from market research firm GfK showed Friday.

The GfK consumer confidence barometer climbed to minus 25 in September, an increase of two points compared with minus 27 registered in August.

The uptick was driven by British consumers' better perception of their outlook regarding the general economy over the next year and their intentions to purchase. This last measurement, along with consumers outlook of their personal finances, are vital considerations for retailers as the country enters the golden quarter in the run-up to Christmas, said Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK.

Consumer confidence in the U.K. has been slowly recovering from its near historic low of minus 36 registered in June, but remains far from the minus 12 reading of September last year or February's pre-pandemic level of minus 7.

Consumer confidence has crept forward for nearly four months now, Mr. Staton said, but he wondered whether this fragile improvement will last or if it is about to come to a grinding halt.

Interviews for the survey were carried out between Sept. 1 and 14, before the government announced new restrictions to contain the resurgence of Covid-19 in the country.

"Consumers are as jittery as stock markets right now and as the U.K. government puts the brakes back on--and there may be more to come--only an unbridled optimist will bet on confidence climbing further," Mr. Staton said.

From the five subindexes that form the barometer, consumer outlook of the general economic situation over the next year, the major purchase index--which gauges demand among shoppers--and the perception of the general economic situation over the last 12 months increased compared with August.

However, consumers assessment about their personal finances was weak, data showed, with the subindex gauging the evolution over the last 12 months declining to minus 7 and the outlook for the next year unchanged at 1.

GfK based its reading on a survey of 2,000 adults and produces the index on behalf of the European Commission.

Write to Xavier Fontdegloria at xavier.fontdegloria@wsj.com

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