Home Financial consultant UK shoppers shop for blankets and warm clothes for tough winter

UK shoppers shop for blankets and warm clothes for tough winter


LONDON — Britons have taken steps to reduce their energy consumption this winter by buying blankets, warm clothes and energy-efficient appliances in response to soaring gas and electricity prices.

Consumers also reduced their purchases of big-ticket items such as computers, televisions and furniture in September, according to the latest sales survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Overall sales value rose 2.2% from a year earlier, but that was due to a sharp increase in commodity prices, the BRC said in a report on Tuesday.

Sales volumes continued to slide as households already struggling with double-digit inflation braced for a 27% increase in the energy price cap on Oct. 1.

Ms Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said rising costs and wages made it difficult for retailers to cut prices for struggling households.

“A tough winter is looming for both retailers and consumers,” Ms Dickinson warned. “Costs are rising throughout the retailer supply chain, the pound remains weak, interest rates are rising and a tight labor market is driving up the cost of hiring.”

The cost of living crisis was also highlighted in a separate Barclaycard survey, which showed spending rose at the slowest rate since the start of last year.

The British also turn down the heating. According to BloombergNEF forecasts, keeping the thermostat a few degrees cooler than usual could reduce residential gas consumption by up to 23%.

That would be enough to avoid forced rationing and carry households comfortably through the coldest of the past 30 winters, giving suppliers some cushion while looking for replacements for dwindling Russian flows.

Regulator Ofgem has warned the country faces a significant risk of gas shortages in the coming months, and the UK grid operator said there could be three-hour power cuts in cold weather and calm.

According to modeling by financial consultant Lane Clark and Peacock (LCP), around three quarters of households would need to change their behaviour, for example by reducing the time the heating is on and not using it in all rooms.

Hannah Kinnane, 20, a university student, said: ‘With bills rising, we plan to turn off the heating until at least November.

Ms Kinnane lives in the seaside town of Brighton with four members of her family, including her 84-year-old grandmother, who suffers from cardiac arrhythmia. She added: “To keep warm, we all huddled together in the same room for three or four hours before going to bed with extra blankets.”

In total, these changes could reduce the energy consumption of an average household by up to 20%, said Mr. Steven Ashurst, heating manager in an LCP unit.

“We are all hoping for a mild heating season in fall and winter,” he said. “People will try to go without their heating for as long as possible.”