CAPE TOWN: Some 76% of South African consumers have become "more cautious" when its come to spending as a consequence of the financial slowdown, but 21% say they have not been affected by the downturn, a study commissioned by UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing has found.

Based on a survey of 2,500 people, the company reported that 78% of respondents had not witnessed a decline in their net income over the last six months, but almost the same number predicted their situation will get worse.

Just under two-thirds of South Africans are taking more time planning their shopping trips, with 60% spending "less on themselves", and 57% reducing the number of discretionary purchases they make.

Some three-quarters of the panel predicted that the economic situation in the country would deteriorate further before it improves.

Around half of contributors were also said to be concerned about their job security, while over 40% argued their finances were under pressure, and a similar number agreed they were spending an increasing amount of time at home.
One emerging demographic is the "strugglers," who are typically on low incomes and have been greatly impacted by the recession.

This group is also the least capable of coping with the downturn's consequences, particularly in the form of rising food prices.

At the other end of the spectrum were the "prime timers", who remain financially secure, but are also "spending selectively and discerningly".

However, the range of discounts now available to shoppers mean the downturn is "almost a bonus" for this segment, as they are able to maintain or increase their purchasing power while spending less.

Data sourced from Cape Times/BizCommunity; additional content by WARC staff