Backed by rising consumer confidence and optimism, many of the world’s economies are experiencing degrees of positive momentum. In some cases, that momentum is strong; in others, it’s subtle but still worth noting. Despite consumer optimism and future spending intentions, shopping trends, behaviors and preferences remain in flux, requiring manufacturers and retailers to stay vigilant in staying abreast of where consumers are—and where they’re not.
In terms of confidence, rising global consumer sentiment pushed Nielsen’s global consumer confidence index up one point in the third quarter, pushing the global average to 105 (up from 104 in the second quarter). The uptick represents a full year of confidence increases, as the index was at 99 back in third-quarter 2016. Southeast Asia, North America, and Asia-Pacific all maintain confidence scores that are well above 100, with Africa, Middle East, Pakistan, Latin America and Europe still striving to break scores of 90.
So what does the landscape look like for brands, manufacturers, businesses, marketers, and retailers? That’s where our global Quarter by Numbers report series comes in, which combines macroeconomic data, consumer insights, spending patterns and market commentary at both a regional and country level to help identify areas of opportunity around the world.
Here, we look at trends in a few select countries.
BACKED BY HIGH CONFIDENCE, CONDITIONS IN INDIA ARE STRENGTHENING
After registering the lowest GDP growth of the past three years in this year’s second quarter, India posted a growth estimate of 6.3% for the third quarter. So clearly conditions are improving, and the outlook for the rest of the year is positive.
Rural indicators, such as two-wheeler and tractor sales, have picked up sharply and industrial production bounced back in August and September after dipping back in June. The country’s new Goods and Services Tax (GST) took effect July 1, and after experiencing some initial disruption, businesses are returning to normalcy. In fact, a recent Nielsen survey found that awareness about the new tax system is almost 100%. Retail stock levels, which dipped ahead of the GST rollout, increased in August and September, although they are yet to reach levels on par with last year.
The country’s government also appears open to adjusting the GST based on the views of key stakeholders. In fact, the GST council delivered a major overhaul of the GST design and rate structure that reduced the tax rates on 178 items to 18% from 28%. Several items included FMCG categories, including shampoo, detergents, and deodorants. Manufacturers have reacted positively to the new announcement as they believe this will boost consumption as the benefit will be passed to the consumer.
India is also benefitting from its improved position on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” ranking. Among the 190 countries surveyed by World Bank, India’s rank jumped 30 places to 100 from 130 last year. Consumer confidence in India is also a dominant positive, as the country’s confidence score of 132 in the third quarter is the highest of the countries Nielsen surveys globally. Looking forward, the economic outlook for India remains positive on the back of digitization, globalization, favorable demographics and reforms.
CHILE IS ON THE UPSWING
In Latin America, Chile represents a subtle bright spot. The country is experiencing a period of discreet but constant recovery, as evidenced by an acceleration of economic activity in the past two quarters. After GDP grew a mere 0.1% in the first quarter of this year, Chile’s GDP hit 0.9% in the second quarter and 2.0% in the third. Mining has been a key contributor to growth, as the industry has climbed out of the red for the past two years to post year-over-year growth of 7.5% in the third quarter.
While mining has been a positive story, retail and services consumption has played a much larger role in the country’s economic resurgence. Backed by third-quarter consumer confidence of 92 (up from 81 points in the second quarter), consumers are sharing a general sense of stability, with 41% saying they feel good about their job prospects and 56% feeling optimistic about their personal finances for the coming year. That said, however, Chilean consumers are showing a cautious approach to spending, with one in three preferring to save any spare cash, or to pay off their debts, credit cards and loans.
So the FMCG environment has yet to reflect the upturn in economic conditions. When we look at certain examples where growth has stalled, there are specific reasons to point to. For example, the negative performance among snacking categories in the supermarket channel can be attributed to shifting consumer buying habits following the country’s 2016 labeling law mandating that food packaging provide details for fats, sugar and/or calories content.
In looking at the FMCG landscape with a lens for opportunity and growth going forward, manufacturers and retailers should pay special attention to dual pricing strategies at play in certain categories: offering low price brands but also promoting premium segments in these same categories to consumers. Private brands in food categories are also having success with volume growth at 7%. The opportunities to win should be focused on two price tiers in the market—both low-priced offerings as well as premium products, with emphasis on the modern channel. Strategies that adequately communicate the value consumers receive for their purchases, even if driven by promotions will appeal to Chilean consumers.
FISCAL PROGRAMS, LOWER TAXES AND STRONG CONFIDENCE BOLSTER CONDITIONS IN ROMANIA
While consumer confidence and economic trends across Europe are climbing, Romania is a market where the economy is thriving and consumers are optimistic about their prospects in the coming year (consumer confidence level was 98 in third-quarter 2017).
From an economic perspective, Romania’s GDP has posted one of the largest gains across Europe over the past year, rising 8.8% since this time last year. Much of the momentum reflects increases in consumption that began in mid-2015 after the value-added tax (VAT) on food was cut to 9%. Consumer confidence has likely also been shaped by several fiscal initiatives over the past two years that have improved financial wellbeing for consumers: taxes were lowered, minimum salaries and pensions were raised, and banks have eased credit conditions.
This overall increase in spending power among the lower and middle class is also reflected in FMCG value sales, which have increased 7.2% in the last 12 months. Hypermarkets continue to dominate organized trade, but supermarkets are the most dynamic, growing by double-digits in the last few periods (based on store expansion). Discounters are also expanding in number, while traditional trade, which still accounts for approximately 40% of the market, is shrinking in units and flat in value. Most FMCG categories are registering healthy growth, with non-alcoholic beverages, processed meat, and dairy products representing the largest and most dynamic categories.
Amid the optimism and growth, some economists have started to issue warnings on growth predictions, based on unsustainable consumption and lack of public investments. Others have raised concerns about the lack of predictability in government decisions induced by the various legislative changes. While Romania looks to be in an enviable position with strong growth, it’s necessary to stay alert to change, as the FMCG industry is highly susceptible to changing consumer preferences.
EGYPT IS FORGING A NORMAL
As with many markets, consumers, manufacturers, and retailers in Egypt are all forging a new normal. Reform changes in fourth-quarter 2016 led to massive currency devaluation and industry upheaval, but the transformation is starting to pay dividends a year later. The IMF approved the disbursement of the first funding installment in third-quarter 2017, signaling a new normalization phase. Meanwhile, GDP continues to grow (4.9%), albeit at a slower than the previously projected rate, while inflation has stabilized over the past six months.
Amid the new status quo, consumers have gravitated to promotions, which manufacturers and retailers have embraced. While the traditional trade remains the dominant sector in size (77%), modern trade growth is accelerating, as retailers are responding creatively to consumers’ altered circumstances. These efforts are aimed to stretch constrained spend and deliver greater value.
Given the landscape, it’s not surprising that FMCG spend has been off this year. In aggregate, spending has been affected in two primary ways: consumers are re-focusing on the categories in their baskets, and consumers are spending less on FMCG as they reallocate their funds to other areas, such as schooling. Notably, the back-to-school season serves as a great opportunity for certain categories, such as snacks and dairy, to innovate and connect with consumers in novel ways.
Looking ahead, normalization won’t necessarily mean immediate stability. Rather, it will likely translate into an easing of the intensely fluctuating conditions. Consumers will provide the key cues for growth, provided that businesses are able to identify and deliver against these opportunities.