"Insatiable" British appetite for debt easing

27-09-2006

The consumer credit market in the UK is in danger of reaching "saturation point", analysts warn, with lenders urged to look to other European countries instead.

Today's report from research firm Datamonitor claims that although the average Briton owes twice as much to creditors than their western European counterparts, the €314 billion (£215 billion) UK market is being eclipsed by growth elsewhere on the continent.

Datamonitor says that the average western European is €2,278 (£1,558) in (consumer) debt, compared to levels of €4,642 (£3,008) for UK residents, while the continental market is said to have increased 8.3 per cent over the last five years.

In contract, the British consumer credit sector has grown by 2.7 per cent during the same period.

Paul Marsh, financial services analyst at Datamonitor and author of today's report, explained that countries such as France, Ireland and Spain were experiencing rapidly expanding consumer credit markets, while in Turkey and Greece the situation was even more marked.

"These markets are where the real opportunities exist, but only for players brave enough to enter," he said.

While Mr Marsh concedes the "buy-now pay-later" culture evident in Britain is a rarity in other western European countries, he claims that traditionally frugal mindsets are being eroded.

"UK lenders looking for business opportunities should look overseas to realise their expansion plans. The UK is an increasingly difficult place to do business, due to the highly indebted nature of the population. Yet in many other European countries consumers are not as indebted and the markets are not as sophisticated," he explained.

However, the analyst warned that past efforts by UK lenders to breach European markets had not always met with success, particularly when online bank Egg attempted to gain a foothold in France.

A synergy between lender, product and country has to be achieved for success to occur," Mr Marsh concluded.


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