A family picture
The study reported the highest family optimism since 2021. Unsplash/Hoi An

In a recent development, M&S has revealed a surge in family optimism, reaching its highest point since 2021. The M&S Family Matters Index, which closely examines quarterly priorities, challenges, and family experiences across the UK, shows that nearly 45 per cent of the population is confident about their prospects for the next three months.

The notable upswing comes as a pleasant surprise, given that just last September, only 32 per cent of the population held an optimistic view of the future – a record low, particularly when inflation skyrocketed to 10.8 per cent.

While the rising cost of living remains a major concern for about 80 per cent of the UK population, the FTSE 250 retailer has pointed out that the anticipation of warmer weather, exciting events, and summer vacations has contributed significantly to this newfound optimism.

As many as half of the population is eagerly looking forward to at least one event this summer, such as weddings, sports events, or concerts. Additionally, half of the families have planned either a staycation or an overseas vacation, further boosting spirits across the nation.

Backing up these encouraging findings, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the big four accounting firms, has also released bullish research, asserting that UK consumer confidence is now at its highest level in 18 months. According to PwC's report, the confidence index currently stands at minus 13, marking a substantial improvement from the minus 25 recorded in the spring after the UK budget announcement.

PwC's survey highlights a remarkable 31-point surge in confidence compared to the same period last year, and a 32-point jump since January of 2023. Encouragingly, the research indicates that the gap between age groups and socioeconomic categories is narrowing, although individuals under the age of 25 remain the most positive, while those aged 55 to 64 exhibit the least positivity.

Lisa Hooker, PwC's industry Head for Consumer Markets, expressed enthusiasm about the overall growth in sentiment across all age groups and demographics. She emphasised that while inflation continues to influence finances significantly, the survey indicates fewer people are cutting back, and spending intentions have steadily improved over the past year.

In a related development, the M&S Family Matters Index, which was issued in February 2022, revealed a delicate mix of optimism and concern among families as they approach the end of 2022.

According to the report, the rising cost of living, caused by surging gasoline and energy prices, was one of the key sources of stress for families. As a result, confidence about family prospects has dropped seven per cent, from 47 per cent in August to 40 per cent now. In March 2021, optimism was at 51 per cent.

Another urgent issue that preoccupied the minds of families is the environment. Interestingly, these issues were not primarily inspired by the focus on COP26 in Glasgow but were a genuine concern. According to the M&S Family Matters Index, 65 per cent of respondents consider the environment to be a major issue, up from 64 per cent in August 2021 and 61 per cent in March 2021.