BEIJING: A majority of consumers in some of the biggest markets in Asia Pacific are planning to either increase or maintain their expenditure levels in the next six months, a new study by the Omnicom Media Group has found.

The Asia Pacific arm of Omnicom Media Group surveyed 3,675 adults in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, in partnership with the Pulse Group.

It reported that 39% of contributors in India, and 45% of their counterparts in China, will "spend more freely" over the next six months, a figure that fell to 26% in Malaysia, 24% in Hong Kong, 18% in Thailand and Singapore, and 8% in Australia.

By contrast, 54% of Australians expect to maintain their current outlay over this period, as will 38% of the sample in Hong Kong, 37% in Singapore, 34% in Thailand, 28% in India, 26% in Malaysia, and 21% in China.

Some 40% of respondents in Thailand plan to be "a little more cautious", as will 30% of shoppers in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong King and China, and a quarter of Indians and Australians.

Overall, however, just 16% of Malaysians intend to be "a lot more cautious", a total that reached 15% in Australia and 13% in Singapore, and was in single digits in the other markets assessed.

More than eight out of ten people in Malaysia have also "traded down" in at least one category this year, as have more than 70% of consumers in India, Singapore and Thailand.

Two-thirds of adults in Hong Kong and China, and 56% of Australians, have adopted a similar approach in response to the economic downturn.

Indeed, 60% of Malaysians have "traded down" in four or more product sectors, as have a majority of adults in India and Singapore, and half of those polled in Thailand.

Some 43% of the panel in China had opted to pursue this course of action, compared with 33% of their contemporaries in Hong Kong, and 36% in Australia.

Household, personal care, groceries, everyday cosmetics and everyday fashion were the market segments where this behaviour has been most pronounced to date.

Guy Hearn, director of communications insights at Omnicom Asia Pacific, argued "consumers across the seven countries are remarkably unified in their responses to the recession and the beginnings of recovery."

"Although a minority are ready to spend more freely, the majority of those we surveyed are not ready to let down their guard yet."

"We call this a ‘Whiplash Effect' – the extent of the recession took people by surprise and like a whiplash injury, it will have a lingering effect and take time to recover from."

Among the 1,792 women taking part in the survey, 73% of females in Malaysia were categorised as showing "impulse restraint", and were only looking to buy necessities, a figure that reached a low of 53% in Hong Kong among the countries analysed.

Over 70% of women in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand were "deal hunting" more often, with India, on 55%, displaying the least frequent uptake of this form of activity.

A majority of women are also spending more time at home and less time shopping and eating out than at the start of the year, except in Thailand, where just 25% were taking this route.

Data sourced from Asia Media Journal; additional content by WARC staff