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Consumers in the UK refuse to succumb to the pattern of low confidence and depressed demand that is undermining internal demand for goods and services in the eurozone nations.

To a great degree, firm consumer demand is attributable to strong consumer confidence. The level of unemployment is lingering at or near record low levels, and that will help to boost confidence through 2004. As a result, demand for automobiles and residential real estate should remain firm.

This year, sales growth in the non-food sector should outpace that in the food sector. Product categories that will experience particularly strong sales growth include apparel, appliances and household electronics items.

The rate of sales growth for automobiles, major appliances, and real estate should taper off as 2004 progresses. To a degree, that slowdown will be attributable to a modest uptick in interest rates. The Bank of England is likely to raise rates gradually in a manner that cools demand for high-end goods and services without causing a generalized sales slump. Residential property values should hold at or near record levels, thus preserving the current high level of household wealth.

British consumers are value oriented and are generally willing to pay a premium price for brands associated with high quality. As a result, sales at department stores and household goods shops are likely to show moderate year-on-year growth through most of 2004.

Food preferences are increasingly shaped by a desire to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Per capita consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables will experience growth this year, with most of the upward momentum driven by consumers over the age of 40.

Increased interest in dieting and weight loss will favor sales of low-fat and low-calorie foods. Sales of healthy dessert products should rise in excess of 5 percent year-on-year. Dietary supplements and weight loss products sold at health food stores should show a similar sales growth pattern. SLOW POPULATION GROWTH WILL LIMIT CONSUMPTION The population growth rate for the UK is roughly equivalent to the regional average, due in part to a birth rate of 11 per thousand inhabitants, which is the same as that for Northern Europe. Job creation has kept up with growth of the labor force in recent years, and it is likely to do so again in 2004. Unemployment is running at less than 5 percent, and that is boosting consumer confidence.

The UKs population approached 60 million people during 2003, which amounted to about 63 percent of Northern Europes 95 million inhabitants. According to data released by the PRB, the UKs population will reach 62.9 million people in 2025, or 5 percent more than the level in 2003. Also, according to that source, the UK is going to have a population of 63.7 million people in 2050, or 8 percent more than in 2003.

The PRB revealed that a hefty 90 percent of the UKs population lived in urban areas during 2003, and that the countrys population density is a comparatively high 626 people per square mile. By the year 2050, the UKs population density should reach 676 people per square mile.

Another source of demographic data, the CIAs World Factbook, indicates that 18 percent of the UKs population was birth-14 years old in 2002, while 66 percent was 15-64 years old, and 16 percent of the populace was 65 years of age and over.

CIA statistics reveal that the countrys population growth rate is 0.3 percent and that the net migration rate is 2.2 migrants per 1,000 inhabitants. According to data released by the United Nations Population Division, in the year 2050, 15 percent of the UKs population will be birth-14 years old, while 51 percent will be aged 15-59, and 34 percent of the populace will be 60 years of age and over.
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Title Annotation:United Kingdom
Publication:Market Europe
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 1, 2004

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