Recession: Shifting Consumer Responses

Euromonitor International explores the latest news within consumer themes including the newest thrift news, shifting consumer loyalty and downsizing and to what extent consumers are trading up or back to normal. This tracker includes stories on the growth of organic sales in Italy, increased taste in Spain for takeaways; and South Koreans opting for cheap eats.

Thrift Update/Frugalista News

Australian women tighten their belts

Australian women are clamping down on household spending and steering clear of winter sales as they worry about shrinking working hours and soaring bills. Supermarket giant Woolworths revealed it has sold out of hot water bottles, amid rising utilities bills and tight household budgets. Hardware chain Bunnings chief executive John Gillam said women generally made the household spending decisions and that the latest unemployment figures showed fewer casual hours worked by females.  

Shifting Consumer Loyalty

Vietnamese consumers increasingly prefer locally made motorbikes to Chinese imports

Demand for Chinese-made motorbikes, once popular in Vietnam due to their low cost, has now declined significantly. Factors contributing to this include an increase in prices, a lack of warranty protection and the absence of instalment payment options. Local consumers increasingly consider the price of a motorbike assembled domestically by joint ventures, such as Honda Vietnam, Yamaha Vietnam and Suzuki, more reasonable.  

Adidas over Nike in Egypt

According to a poll run by Netlog, a social media site, Adidas outperforms Nike as Egypt’s favourite sports footwear. The July report showed Adidas was 19 points ahead of Nike. Puma has a steady following in Egypt with 15% of the votes. According to Euromonitor International, there has been a big increase in the market size of sports goods stores in Egypt: from the equivalent of US$25.1 million in 2005 to US$44.1 million in 2010.

Attitudes to Plastic, Other Forms of Credit and Saving

Wary Argentines move their money to Uruguay

During the 20th century, Argentina had a financial crisis every nine years, on average. The last one, during 2001 and 2002, seriously damaged the reputation of the country’s banks and financial institutions. As a result, many Argentines have moved some or all of their savings to neighbouring Uruguay. During July, Mario Bergara, head of the Uruguayan Central Bank, said Argentine savings now accounted for “15% of all deposits” in Uruguayan banks and that US$272 million had been moved from Argentina to Uruguay during the previous 12 months.

Chileans pay their bills 15 days before their due date …

Chileans pay their monthly bills an average of “15 days before that date,” claims Óscar Álvarez, CEO of Servipag, a company specialising in financial transactions. Álvarez adds that 10% of bill payments are now made online, up from 1% five years ago.

… but retail credit under scrutiny

However, at least 79% of Chilean consumers are indebted to retailers, and 75% claim they feel unprotected against the credit practices of large shops, banks and supermarkets, according to “Perceptions of Retail in Chile,” a study conducted by the IEDE Business School and the Universidad Andrés Bello. It found 79% of Chileans owed money to retailers.

Saving a struggle for Lithuanians

A survey conducted by Swedbank’s Institute of Private Finance during May 2011 found the average savings of Lithuanians were less than €1,000. The purchase of consumer durables was found to be the most common reason for saving. It also found that most Lithuanians hold their savings in the form of bank deposits and don’t tend to invest their money in shares or bonds. Just 15% of respondents said they were currently in a position to add to their savings. Most of those who were not saving cited a lack of income as the reason.

Downsizing, Trading Up or Back to Normal?

Quality becomes more of a factor in Peruvian purchasing decisions

Peru’s strong economic performance over recent years has begun to have an impact on local shopping habits. In the past, price ruled, but it’s now taken a backseat to quality for the swelling ranks of the country’s middle class. According to news portal Peru21, the new motto of the Peruvian consumer is “Cheap becomes expensive,” particularly in relation to clothing and household goods. In recent years, consumers “have stopped checking prices before purchasing a product or service,” says Gonzalo Ansola, head of the Peruvian Shopping and Entertainment Centre Association. Instead, they now focus on quality, regardless of price: “Peruvian consumers +are well informed and are willing to spend more for something durable,” he adds. The CEO of Unilever Peru agrees: “In some sectors, people pay up to 10% more,” and in sectors such as personal care consumers are increasingly prepared to pay extra for products with “added value.”

German party poopers

There is a growing trend for festivities, anniversaries and weddings: it’s got to be big, expensive and unforgettable. For young Germans, a splendid party, ball-gowns, champagne and glamorous venues have gradually replaced that sober handing over of the school leaver certificate in the school gym. School students (or rather, their parents) save up for the big event that signifies the beginning of adulthood, which can cost anything from €300 upwards, per child. Increasingly, these balls are organised by professional event managers and frowned upon by critics who think this is one step too far towards mollycoddling.

The Green Barometer or Are Consumers Financially Fit Enough to Care?

Organic to the rescue in Italy!

Italian consumers are getting fonder of naturally produced foods. Italian agricultural news service, Coldiretti, reports that sales of organic products have seen a 13% rise in the first half of 2011. In some sectors they have almost doubled. Pasta, for example, has seen a 97% rise, and mozzarella 120% growth, while value sales of organic milk have increased by 77% for long-life and by 32% for fresh milk. Coldiretti attributes these increases mainly to the food scandals surrounding the EHEC (e-coli) bacteria that recently caused deaths in Germany and France. Vegetables saw an average increase of 12%, with fruit also doing well. Topping the list were fennel, clementines, apples, courgettes and broccoli. Overall, Euromonitor International shows the organic market in Italy is worth close to €1 billion.

What’s for Dinner?

Facing higher prices, South Korean workers seek out cheaper lunches …

Many office workers are shunning expensive eateries amid soaring food prices, and are searching for places offering low-priced food. The owner of one restaurant specialising in “gimbap” (seaweed rice roll), which is relatively cheap, said she’s had about 10% more customers compared to last summer; and cheap lunch boxes are selling well in convenience stores. Many people are now visiting specialist coffee outlets less frequently because the price of a coffee, with extras such as infusions or cream, can now cost more than KRW5,000 (circa US$5). Lee Ji-eun, an insurance company employee, now has coffee with her colleagues at Popeyes, a chicken franchise where a cup costs around KRW2,000, rather than at Starbucks.

Home delivery becoming more popular for Spanish cuisine

News Agency Europa Press reports an increase in the demand for takeaways and home deliveries of paellas and fideuas (a Valencian noodle dish), as well as tortillas and other Spanish specialities. According to the takeaway internet site Just Eat Spain, orders for paella increased by 38% in June in comparison with the previous month. “The latest trend is to get a paella or fideua delivered directly to the swimming pool or beach,” says Just Eat director Jerome Gavin. Just Eat and the restaurants that use the platform agree Barcelona and Madrid have seen the greatest increase in demand.

Treats that Consumers Can’t Do Without

Indian men pay more attention to their looks

Young Indian men are paying more attention to their health and appearance. Skin lightening creams, Botox injections, fillers, cosmetic surgery, skin-tightening procedures and anti-tanning solutions are all growing in popularity. “Another popular service that men come in for is laser hair removal from their back, chest, armpits, abdomen, ear lobes and for beard shape,” said one New Delhi dermatologist. Upscale spas are also capitalising on the growing number of men seeking to relieve stress and rejuvenate after a hard day’s work. Men are not just signing up for massages but also for facials, body scrubs and more. 31-year-old Ajeet Sharma, a sales manager, has a monthly routine: each month he takes a day off work and checks into a spa for some mind and body rejuvenation. According to Euromonitor international data, retail sales of men’s grooming products in India grew by 19% in current value terms in 2010, to reach US$561 million.

Sales of Men’s Grooming Products in India: 2005-2010












Source: Euromonitor International from trade sources and national statistics

Note: Men’s grooming products include men’s shaving products and men’s toiletries but exclude fragranced after-shave lotions offering no moisturising properties

A little piece of Korea in Tokyo becomes more fashionable

In the Shin-Okubo district of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, the local Korea Town is gaining popularity with both diners and shoppers. Despite the recent slump in consumer spending, it’s constantly filled with visitors, particularly teenage girls and women seeking to buy products endorsed by Korean celebrities. 33-year old Rie Ono from Kawasaki, who was eating hottoku, a type of Korean pancake, said “My primary purpose for coming to Shin-Okubo is to buy foods and cosmetics. You can buy high-quality cosmetics at low prices.” Pae Hui-chong, head of the market’s administration division, said “The popularity of our market is proof that Korean foods are becoming familiar to Japanese consumers.”

The Travel Bug?

More tourists, less spending in Greece

“First we lost the American and the British tourists, then the Italians stopped coming because of the crisis, and now the Greeks themselves are not showing up,” says an Athens restaurant owner. “In recent years, we are seeing more tourists than ever, but we are getting less revenue,” says a local government official in Santorini. It’s attributed in large part to the growing number of cruise liners coming to Greece, where tourists find the best value for money.