Consumer confidence has increased for the third consecutive quarter but remains below pre-recession highs.

More people reported feeling positive about their job prospects and personal finances in the final quarter of 2009, according to the Nielsen-British Retail Consortium Consumer Confidence Survey.

The report revealed that half of respondents believe that Britain will still be in recession by the end of 2010 and 70%are adjusting spending to save money.

Consumers’ biggest concern over the next six months is levels of personal debt, followed by the economy and increasing utility bills.

69% of those polled said they would put any spare cash they have in to improving their personal finances – 40% said they would use the money to increased theirsavings and 29% to pay off debts. The savings figure is the highest recorded since the survey began in November 2004.

Nielsen Consumer UK managing director Justin Sargent said: “We are in the foothills of what will be a slow climb out of recession.  While people are feeling ever so slightly better about job prospects and personal finances, a definite air of caution prevails.  The number of people saying they are saving is at the highest the consumer confidence survey has ever recorded and people remain very concerned about the amount of debt they are shouldering.” 

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Strong Christmas sales showed customers felt more confident about spending than they have for some time but is that improved mood permanent? Customers are cautious about how their own finances will shape up in 2010, with the impending general election adding to the uncertainty.

“They now want to cut their costs. That means spending less on things such as new clothes, saving on utility bills and buying more supermarket discount goods.”