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Are North Americans Ready to Spend?
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Are North Americans Ready to Spend?

North Americans kept a recessionary mindset in the first quarter of 2013, but they cautiously opened their wallets and exhibited a desire to spend again, according to findings from the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions. Forty-two percent said they plan to spend on discretionary items this year, a 6-point rise from Q4 2012 and a welcomed increase from the average of 33 percent over the past three years.

North America led the other regions in terms of spending intentions, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, which reported an increase of 2 percentage points to 39 percent. Comparatively, spending intentions declined among respondents in Latin America (34%), Middle East/Africa (30%) and Europe (27%).

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 29,000 respondents with Internet access in 58 countries.

“Buoyed by a nascent revival of the U.S. housing market, a strengthening of employment rates and an increase in retail sales in the first quarter, Americans demonstrated an eagerness to spend again,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. “However, volatile economic factors, such as inflation and fuel prices, continue to affect U.S. households, which will make continued growth an ongoing challenge.”

In the U.S., the percentage of respondents intending to spend on home improvement and decorating projects increased 6 points to 23 percent from Q4 2012. Twenty-two percent plan to take a vacation and spend on out-of home entertainment, an increase of 2 percentage points each. One-fourth of American respondents (26%) plan to buy new clothes, down from 27 percent in Q4 2012.

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“In the U.S., the increase in reported discretionary spending is not a rising tide affecting all ships,” said James Russo, senior vice president, Global Consumer Insights, Nielsen. “Nearly four years after the official recession hit, more than three-quarters of Americans are still feeling the effects. With close to two-thirds of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, consumers are significantly affected by continued volatile economic factors, such as job growth, rising food and fuel prices.”

In Canada, spending intentions for new clothes and out-of-home entertainment increased 4 percentage points each, compared with Q4 2012, representing 22 percent and 19 percent of respondents, respectively. One-fifth of Canadian respondents said home improvement/decorating projects were a priority—an increase of 3 percentage points from the previous quarter. Canadians also say they plan to save more, up 6 percentage points to 41 percent in Q1.

Other findings include:

  • Confidence in key Asian export economies rebounded strongly in Q1.
  • Consumer confidence in central and northern Europe increased in Q1, surpassing year-ago levels.
  • Latin Americans reported spending restraint and the region’s confidence dipped two points in Q1.
  • Consumer confidence in the Middle East/Africa region declined to the lowest level in three years.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q1 2013 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted Feb. 18-March 8, 2013 and polled more than 29,000 online consumers in 58 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 their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10 million online population for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.