Ready to Spend, But Conditioned to Save

Ready to Spend, But Conditioned to Save

Reticent consumers are eager to open up their wallets, but they know that global economic conditions are still fragile. Backed by growing optimism, discretionary spending intentions around the world increased across all categories measured in the third quarter compared with those three months earlier, according to Nielsen’s latest Global Survey of Consumer Confidence. Plans to buy new clothes (38%) and spend on holidays/vacations (38%), out-of-home entertainment (35%) and home improvements (25%) each increased 5 percentage points from the second quarter. Intentions to buy new technology products (29%) increased 4 percentage points in the three-month period.

Intent to spend was most evident in Asia-Pacific and North America, where discretionary spending intentions increased across all categories. Plans to spend on holidays, new clothes, out-of-home entertainment, new technology products and home improvements increased an average of 7 percentage points in the third quarter. But intent to spend was balanced by the fact that the economic downturn has conditioned many consumers to save. With more than half (58%) of global respondents believing they were still in a recession in the third quarter, saving strategies remained at the top of their priority lists, especially among respondents in the U.S., China and India.

“In line with confidence findings, it’s not surprising to see that consumers are planning to increase their spending across all industries measured, which will be encouraging to many retailers as they get ready for the end-of-year holiday season,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. “However, it’s going to be a slow climb for economic conditions in the global economy to recover, and there is no sign of rapid expansion around the corner. Additionally, it remains to be seen if consumer concerns potentially caused by the recent U.S. government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis will have a lasting effect on consumer confidence.”


In Latin America and the Middle East/Africa regions, discretionary spending increased an average 2 percentage points from the second quarter across most spending categories.

Other findings include:

  • Optimism is slowly returning to the U.S. and Western Europe.
  • Saving, investing and paying down debt were consumer priorities in the third quarter.
  • Recession-battered Europe showed signs of recovery in the third quarter.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q3 2013 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted between August 14 and September 6, 2013, 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 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.