Consumer trends, UK: January to March 2018

Household final consumption expenditure (HHFCE) for the UK, as a measure of economic growth. Includes all spending on goods and services by members of UK households.

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Release date:
29 June 2018

Next release:
28 September 2018

1. Main points

  • In Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018, household spending (adjusted for inflation) grew by 0.2% compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2017.

  • The main contribution to growth can be seen in housing, which has increased by 0.5% compared with Quarter 4 2017.

  • Household spending grew 1.2% in Quarter 1 2018, when compared with Quarter 1 2017.

  • In Quarter 1 2018, current price spending increased by 1.3% compared with Quarter 4 2017.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

The quarterly Consumer trends data are typically published around 90 days after the end of the quarter.

Unless otherwise stated all figures are chained volume measure, seasonally adjusted.

The data are consistent with Blue Book 2018.

Household final consumption expenditure (HHFCE) includes spending on goods and services except for: buying or extending a house, investment in valuables (for example, paintings and antiques) or purchasing second-hand goods. Explanations for these exceptions and the related concepts are available in Consumer trends guidance and methodology.

Household expenditure is used in the national accounts to measure the contribution of households to economic growth and accounts for about 60% of the expenditure measure of gross domestic product (GDP). There are two measures:

  • current prices – also known as nominal, cash or value series are expressed in terms of the prices of the time period being estimated

  • chained volume measure – this measure removes the effects of inflation

The estimate of HHFCE where net tourism expenditure is included is called the UK national estimate. When net tourism is excluded, this produces the aggregate total UK domestic expenditure. Lower-level analyses in this bulletin are based on the domestic concept. This is discussed in greater detail in Definitions and conventions for UK HHFCE (Word, 58KB).

Time series data for Consumer trends are also available.

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3. Household spending (adjusted for inflation) grew by 0.2% in Quarter 1 2018

In Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018, the chained volume measure of household spending increased by 0.2%. The current price value of household spending increased by 1.3% compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2017. Figure 1 shows the levels of current price and volume spending from Quarter 1 1997 onwards.

In Quarter 1 2018, the value of household spending in current prices increased by 3.3% on the same quarter in 2017. When comparing the volume measure of household spending in Quarter 1 2018 with the same quarter in 2017, it increased by 1.2%.

Since the economic downturn in 2008 to 2009 (reaching its lowest point in Quarter 2 2009), household final consumption expenditure (HHFCE) has grown by 16.1% in volume terms. In current prices, it has grown by 38.3% (£91,113 million). This shows that whilst household spending has increased during this period, the volume of goods and services purchased by households has increased at a far lesser rate, indicating the effect of price inflation.

During 2017, quarterly growth remained on trend; however, household consumption remains relatively subdued with quarter-on-year growth of 1.2% slowing for the fifth consecutive quarter to be at its lowest rate since Quarter 1 2012. Household spending has increased by 1.9% in 2017 when compared with 2016. This is the lowest rate of annual growth since 2012, when growth in household spending was 1.7%.

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4. What are the main contributors to top-level growth?

As illustrated in Figure 2, the main contributors to the 0.1% domestic growth in consumer spending in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018 were housing and miscellaneous, which both contributed 0.1%, though this was partially offset by restaurants and hotels, which contributed negative 0.1%.

The 0.14% contribution from housing was due to its growth of 0.5% quarter-on-quarter. Within that category, the growth was driven mainly by actual rentals, which grew by 1.1% quarter-on-quarter, contributing 0.07% to total domestic expenditure growth.

Miscellaneous, and household goods and services were the next largest contributors to overall growth, contributing 0.11% and 0.07% respectively to the total overall growth.

At the most detailed level we record, Table 1 shows the areas that displayed the highest growth.

At this level, Table 2 shows the area that displayed the largest decline in Quarter 1 2018.

Figure 4 shows the contribution to growth for miscellaneous goods and services. The largest contributor to this growth is from insurance, although this has been offset partially by the negative growth in social protection.

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5. Household final consumption expenditure revisions, Quarter 1 2018

In common with all components of UK gross domestic product (GDP), household final consumption expenditure (HHFCE) estimates are subject to the revisions policy of the UK National Accounts. This allows revisions to estimates to be made at particular times of the year.

In Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018, the revisions to total household final consumption expenditure have been made in line with the revisions policy for Blue Book 2018. Impact of Blue Book 2018 changes on current price gross domestic product estimates provides an explanation of the methodological changes introduced in Blue Book 2018.

Revisions between Consumer trends (Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017) and the latest HHFCE estimates are summarised in Table 3. The revisions reflect methodological changes in the compilation of estimates, updated data from suppliers, as well as adjustments to HHFCE as a result of supply and use balancing and the GDP balancing process.

All growth rates in Consumer trends are rounded to one decimal place. This may cause disparity between revisions displayed in the main Consumer trends tables and the revisions table.

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7. Quality and methodology

Consumer trends guidance offers fuller details regarding this publication.

We have published a Quality and methodology information report for this statistical bulletin and details on changes to estimates and methodology in Blue Book 2018.

The Consumer trends Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

Full information on the Classification of individual consumption by purpose (COICOP) classification system can be found on the United Nations Statistics Division website.

Quality of the estimates

Household expenditure volume series are chain-linked annually. Estimates in this Consumer trends bulletin are now based on 2016 price structures; that is, the chained volume measure estimate in 2016 equals the current price value of expenditure in 2016.

Growth in each year up to and including 2016 is calculated at average prices of the previous year. Growth from 2016 onwards is calculated at average prices of 2016. Volume series are only additive for the most recent periods; that is, annual data for 2016 onwards and quarterly data for Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017 onwards.

Very few statistical revisions arise as a result of “errors” in the popular sense of the word. All estimates, by definition, are subject to statistical “error” but in this context the word refers to the uncertainty inherent in any process or calculation that uses sampling, estimation or modelling. Most revisions reflect either the adoption of new statistical techniques or the incorporation of new information that allows the statistical error of previous estimates to be reduced. Only rarely are there avoidable “errors” such as human or system failures and such mistakes are made clear when they do occur.


Household final consumption expenditure estimates published in Consumer trends are a component of the gross domestic product (GDP) expenditure approach. However, the preliminary estimate for GDP is produced based on the GDP output approach. Historic experience shows that the output approach provides the best timely approach to measuring GDP growth. GDP growth according to the expenditure and income approaches is therefore brought into line with that recorded by output.

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