India continues to top the global confidence index but its citizens are actually saving more than before in a continuing trend of caution, and their spending habits haven’t changed much over the past two quarters.
Respondents polled online by market researcher Nielsen said they saved primarily on gas and electricity (54%), new clothes (48%) and telephone expenses (37%), compared with last year.
Over two in 10 (23%) respondents indicated they will cut down on smoking to control spending, even when conditions improve.
However, the country’s confidence level was unchanged from the preceding quarter at 131 points.
India was followed by the US (119), Philippines (117) and Indonesia (116), according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions.
Even though this is the sixth quarter in a row that India has topped the survey, the number of respondents who felt the economy was still weak increased over the year. More than half the respondents (54%) felt the economy is still in a recession, an increase of 4 percentage points over the preceding quarter.
However, this quarter, 67% indicated that India will be out of the recession over the next 12 months, as against 61% last quarter.
Consumer confidence above 100 indicates optimism. An increase in consumer confidence index is a sign of brighter prospects for an economic recovery. The latest survey was conducted between 10 August and 4 September and had 30,000 global participants with Internet access across 60 countries.
The survey results are in line with the earnings of consumer goods manufacturers and retailers. For instance, at Hindustan Unilever Ltd, India’s largest consumer goods manufacturer by sales, volume growth in the September quarter was nearly the same as that in the preceding quarter at 6.5%.
Likewise, Shoppers Stop Ltd, India’s oldest department store chain, recorded flat like-to-like growth in the September quarter.
However, Govind Shrikhande, managing director, Shoppers Stop, is now looking at double-digit growth in the December quarter, given the festivals of Dussehra and Diwali.
“The festive season may lend to this buoyancy,” said Roosevelt D’Souza, senior vice-president, Nielsen India region, adding that smart marketing and attractive deals, both online and in store, may also stimulate the market. However, “volatility still exists in consumer sentiment owing to deficit monsoons, and uncertainty in certain pockets when it comes to consumption”, he said.
Meanwhile, optimism for urban job prospects remains at the same level as last quarter at 81%.
With no improvement in the job outlook, an increasing number of consumers have changed their spending habits. In the September quarter last year, 61% indicated they will invest spare cash in savings, 44% in new technology projects, 43% in new clothes, and 42% on holidays and vacations.
Now, over 4/5th of respondents (83%) have changed their spending habits to save on expenses, echoing trends from last quarter (80% in June quarter 2015), and five percentage points higher than the same quarter last year (78% in Q3 2014).
Additionally, there has been a slight increase on concerns around job security, with 19% of respondents indicating it is the biggest concern, up by two percentage points from last quarter (17% in the preceding quarter). However, compared with the same period last year, the outlook on jobs security is optimistic (21% in Q3 2014).
Other big concerns for the next six months are the state of the economy (13%), followed by work-life balance (10%. Others included increasing food prices (8%) and parents’ welfare and happiness (7%).
Interestingly, 81% urban Indian respondents have polled that the state of personal finances was good or excellent for the third quarter of 2015, marginally up by two percentage points from last quarter (79% in the preceding quarter).