Trends Briefing: The World in 2023

The Return of Optimism

January 26th 2023 0900-1000

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It’s been a tough year. A land war in Europe, inflation at a 40 year high and the country slipping into a recession. Public services will be affected by waves of strike action this winter while the long impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in national health, standards of care and educational catch up. The UK economy is not expected to reach pre-pandemic size until 2025. Who knows how many more Prime Ministers we’ll see before then.

In this context, who’d be optimistic? Certainly not the UK public. All year our own Optimism Index – which monitors consumer sentiment every month – has been firmly negative. For every group, optimism has been in decline, leaving us facing 2023 with a deeply pessimistic outlook.

With all of this setting the tone, businesses and strategists can have little certainty – or hope – about what the next 12 months means for them. Our next webinar will look ahead at all that 2023 has in store for us – from prospects for the economic recovery, bitterly contested global elections, massive steps forward in technology and the continued impacts of the cost of living– to provide a little more surety – and positivity – about what is coming down the line, and how best to adjust.

As futurists, optimism is essential to us at Trajectory. Without optimism, what hope do we have? We won’t meet the grand challenges posed to us by climate change, polarisation and ageing without belief that better is possible. We won’t realise the opportunities of new technology without understanding that new technology always creates opportunities.

In 2023, we expect optimism to return to the consumer mindset. Although it seems distant now, there’s a case for it. During the pandemic, the nadir of sentiment was November 2020, as the UK slid inexorably into the third lockdown. But by January 2021, with people now in lockdown and Christmas cancelled for most, Optimism started to recover. People saw the light at the end of the tunnel – there was a roadmap for reopening. Consumer optimism reflected the anticipated future rather than the miserable present and sentiment improved as a result.

In 2023, consumer outlook will be as influenced by hopes for 2024 as experiences of the present. When optimism does improve it will provide a short term morale boost to the country, a uptick in spending – especially discretionary spending – and renewed focus on the longer term too.

Join us for our next webinar on January 26th when we’ll explore how and why the consumer mood will change next year and what this means for attitudes, values and spending behaviour. As ever, our insights will draw on hot-off-the-press data from our monthly consumer sentiment barometer and come with implications for businesses, strategists and policymakers.