Asda’s Mumdex shows families feel a recovery is still a long way off.

Asda’s Mumdex shows families feel a recovery is still a long way off.

Last month the ONS reported that in quarter three the economy had grown by 0.9%. Retail sales in October were up 1.6% on the year and the number of people out of work fell again in the three months to September.

Does this mean that the economy is at last on the rocky road to recovery and after four tough years we can all start to look forward to a brighter 2013? Well, if the key to getting the economy moving again is consumer confidence, then perhaps we shouldn’t be celebrating too soon.

Talking to our Asda mums on a regular basis has reinforced our view that they are absolutely the authority on family life – they’re the barometer of how families feel about the state of their finances, and it’s clear that they don’t yet see the end of the economy’s financial troubles.

Our latest Mumdex research found that just one in 10 Asda mums said the recent news that the UK was coming out of recession made them feel more positive about the economy.

In fact, two-thirds predict it will get worse still in 2013. Almost half of our families have been forced to accept a household pay cut or freeze, with the Asda Income Tracker showing UK families are £13 a week worse off in October compared with the same month in 2010.

But whatever is happening in the macroeconomic picture, we see a huge amount of resilience and stoicism in family life to weather the financial storm.

Mumdex shows 77% of mums control the purse strings and when things get tough they make savvy decisions to ensure their families don’t notice a thing. One mum from Bootle, Liverpool, talked about feeding her family a vegetarian meal once a week to cut back on spending on meat. Another swapped the contents of a Nestlé cereal box for an Asda own-label version, but without telling the kids. Families are now thinking less in terms of ‘want’ and more in terms of ‘need’, with seven out of 10 mums now less likely to upgrade big-ticket items such as TVs before they need replacing.

As a retailer we have a responsibility to use our Mumdex insight to make sure we’re doing the right thing for families.

Our mums have told us that Asda can best support them by keeping prices down, providing greater employment opportunities and stimulating the economy by buying locally, so that’s what we aim to do.

What does this tell us as we approach the final week of trading before Christmas? That it’s not all doom and gloom, but that as an industry we need to work harder than ever to help our customers make sure their family Christmas is a success. Mums won’t compromise and nor should we.

But that said, it’s not just up to us. The future is uncertain and growth is dependent on consumer confidence, and as business leaders, in conjunction with Government and even the media, we all need to work harder to inspire this confidence in one of the economy’s key drivers: mums.

  • Judith McKenna is chief operating officer of Asda