Belt-Tightening Measures Loosened in North America in Q2

Belt-Tightening Measures Loosened in North America in Q2

More North Americans had discretionary income in the second quarter than they did at the start of the year, according to findings from the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions. One-fifth (21%) of North Americans reported having no spare cash, which was an improvement from 26 percent reported in the first quarter.

With more discretionary income to spend, North Americans loosened the reins on their actions to save on household expenses, albeit cautiously. Declining 4 percentage points from the first quarter, fewer North American respondents said they saved on gas and electricity (55%), out-of-home entertainment (52%) and vacation (29%) expenses. Less than half (49%) said they were switching to cheaper grocery brands, a decline of 5 percentage points from three months ago. Fewer respondents also cut down on take-away meals (47%) and delayed replacing major household items (28%).

“In the U.S., improved sentiment is converting to dollar sales at the cash register,” said James Russo, senior vice president, Global Consumer Insights, Nielsen. “For the 12-month period ending May 11, 2013, dollar and unit sales were both up, rising 3.4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, compared with year-ago performance. There is a watch-out, however. While U.S. confidence in the economy has shown improvement, more than half of respondents (55%) still believe the recession will live on for another year.”

In Canada, consumer confidence declined four index points in the second quarter to a score of 98. “The recent decline in Canadian sentiment is a testimony of the consumer volatility that still exists, and we’re still not out of the woods,” said Carman Allison, director, Shopper and Industry Insights, Nielsen Canada. “Based on economic projections, we expect 2013 to be a relatively slow growth year for Canada’s economy. Record high consumer debt, stabilized home prices and a slowing equities market have restrained household spending power. As consumers continue to focus on spend control, expect a repeat performance of 2012, when consumer package goods growth stalled and more consumers shopped at discount retailers.”

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, established in 2005, measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 29,000 respondents with Internet access in 58 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.


Other findings include:

  • Global consumer confidence increased one index point to 94 in Q2.
  • Quarterly confidence rose in all regions except Latin America.
  • European respondents remained stuck in a spending holding pattern.
  • Confidence in Middle East/Africa returned to its Q4 2012 level.
  • Discretionary spending intentions improved in Asia-Pacific.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q2 2013 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted between May 13-31, 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 10M online population for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China.