We’ve heard an awful lot about the collapse in consumer confidence. But how low has it fallen? And how much is simply retailers moaning and media hype?

With the help of ICM, we decided to find out for ourselves. And, as our special report on page 23 shows, in many respects the answers aren’t pretty.

Nearly everyone has noticed their grocery bills rising. Two thirds of people think the economy will worsen and more than 40 per cent feel their spending power has decreased.

None of this is surprising in a world of soaring bills, bank collapses and shaky markets. But what’s interesting about the survey is that consumers don’t feel we’re in recession.

Three quarters of those surveyed believe their jobs are secure. More than two thirds feel that their financial situation won’t deteriorate over the coming months and more than a quarter feel that their spending power has increased.

That’s not to deny that times are harder, but to put a sense of perspective on things. And, as the survey shows, retailers are trusted to offer a good deal in tough times, much more than other service and utility providers.

The global economy may be in turmoil but, while consumers might be feeling a slight twinge, the pain hasn’t really hit yet. The question is if – and when – it will.

A tragic loss
Everyone in the retail community will sympathise with the family and colleagues of Jamie Simpson, the Matalan assistant manager knifed to death by robbers over Easter. By all accounts, he was a committed, well-liked retailer doing a good job at a difficult store.

When a policeman or a teacher is attacked as they go about their work there is uproar and rightly so. But it’s a sad fact that retailers in inner city areas are on the frontline against crime and violence and they need the help of both their employers and the police to make sure that they are given as much protection as possible.

Remember it was only two weeks ago that the Government’s Sentencing Advisory Panel recommended lesser sentences for criminals who target multiple retailers. It’s a disgraceful proposal that should be binned right away.