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Save or Spend? Global Consumers Played it Safe in the Second Quarter
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Save or Spend? Global Consumers Played it Safe in the Second Quarter

The way we view the economy and what’s in our wallets can have a direct impact on our willingness to spend and save. As such, it’s no surprise that changes in consumer confidence can influence the actions consumers say they take to save on household expenses. In the second quarter, as global consumer confidence declined one index point to a score of 96, saving strategies continued to permeate the mindset of consumers around the world.

“Even as sentiment about consumers’ own personal situations has risen in recent years, there is still a widespread concern among consumers about recession,” said Louise Keely, senior vice president, Nielsen, and president, The Demand Institute. “In fact, six years after the official end of the Great Recession, more than half (54%) of global respondents still believe their country is in recession. So while global consumer confidence has been rising slowly to reach near optimistic levels in the past year, there is still evidence that consumers feel uncertain about their countries’ futures. Retail sales activity has been slower to respond, reflecting that lingering uncertainty.”

Anemic consumer spending levels are reflective of the fact that nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers around the world are in a saving—rather than a spending—mindset. This cautionary outlook is most prevalent in Latin America (79%), followed by Middle East/Africa (69%), Asia-Pacific (66%), North America (59%) and Europe (58%), as more than half of respondents in these regions say they are actively taking action to save on household expenses compared with a year ago.

While saving strategies differ across regions, there are some common practices globally. Among those who say they are taking actions to save, spending on clothing and out-of-home entertainment costs are the top two areas earmarked for reduced spending. Cutting back on gas and electricity costs, along with spending less on take-out meals and switching to cheaper grocery brands, are other top saving priorities. Expenses that affect transportation, annual holidays/vacations, at-home entertainment and the replacement of major household appliances are somewhat more protected.

Other findings include:

  • Recessionary sentiment improved in 78% of European markets, while confidence in Greece dropped 12 index points to a score of 53.
  • North American confidence remained optimistic at an index score of 101.
  • Worries about the economy, job security and health issues are top global concerns.
  • Confidence in Latin America continued to decline to the lowest level since 2009.
  • A closer look at country-level insights within global regions.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q2 2015 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

For a historical look at global consumer confidence by region, country and time period, explore the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Trend Tracker.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted May 11-29, 2015 and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China. The sub-Saharan African countries in this study are compiled from a separate mobile methodology survey among 1,600 respondents in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.