Consumers in mixed mood, global survey finds

23 June 2011

NEW YORK: Consumer confidence levels remain highly diverse around the world, indicative of the "multispeed" economic recovery now taking place, the Boston Consulting Group has revealed.

The company surveyed 24,000 people in 21 nations, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and US.

Overall, 57% of Americans believe the recession has exerted an unfavourable influence on their day-to-day lives, and 44% did not anticipate an improvement in the situation for "several years".

Nearly 40% of US contributors also feel "financially insecure", with a majority reducing the amount of products they buy, turning to own-label and waiting for promotions, particularly in segments like luxury and mobile phones.

Roughly a quarter of the Chinese panel agreed they had been negatively impacted by global economic headwinds and 30% expressed anxiety about the future, an increase on 2010, but among the lowest scores worldwide.

Over a third of China's shoppers think their discretionary spending should rise this year and 38% expect to trade up across various categories.

A further 80% are interested in goods boasting strong environmental credentials, and 42% were willing to pay a premium for these lines.

Conflicting trends can be observed in India at present, where 43% of the sample had been hit by the financial crisis on the individual level, not least due to price inflation.

Worries linked to job security also reached 22%, matching Russia, and the worst of the emerging markets featured.

In spite of this, a fifth of Indians asserted their household expenditure should climb in 2011, and a third plan to buy more expensive items in different sectors, primarily benefiting "brand names and healthier products".

Brazil also delivered favourable trends, meaning it was another of the outlets monitored where BCG argued the climate was "getting brighter".

Looking to Japan, the recent natural disasters endured by the country have resulted in a profound shift in popular attitudes and habits.

As such, 40% will slash their outlay this year, 80% have donated to charities hoping to aid the recovery effort, and many are now frequently "cocooning" at home, often watching TV, engaging in ecommerce or social networking.

Mexico, where 66% of those polled displayed anxiety about the future, and Italy, where this figure approached 70%, constituted the other "question mark" nations named by BCG.

Elsewhere, only 27% of Canadians anticipated the economic situation would not improve for "several years", and less than half were concerned going forward.

However, 45% hope to trim their outgoings, and 86% have previously reported shopping for deals, one of the largest totals recorded on this metric.

In Australia, like Canada relatively unscathed by the downturn, 40% of interviewees are pessimistic for the future and 17% worry about job security, but nearly half are trading down and reducing spending.

Just 35% of Germans expect to cut back their purchase levels in 2011, declining from 60% last year, with 41% likely to trade down in non-food categories and 35% for food, measured against a European average of 50% and 44%.

In concluding, the Boston Consulting Group suggested a major transition was underway from "conspicuous" to "conscientious" consumption in many countries.

"Consumers are trading down and purchasing more private-label products because they feel it's important to get a good deal - not necessarily because they can't afford the price," said Catherine Roche, a BCG partner.

Spain and Greece were the two markets where perceptions and conditions remain most austere, with a majority of shoppers in negative mood on almost all the fields assessed.

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff