MBPT Spotlight: Nielsen Consumer Confidence Report Offers Some Reasons For Marketers To Be Optimistic

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A new Nielsen report on global consumer confidence offers marketers some positive news for selling their goods and services in the U.S.

The research contained in “Consumer Confidence: Concerns and Spending Intentions Around The World,” based on data gathered during second-quarter 2014, finds global consumer optimism has reached the 50% level for the first time since 2007, and U.S. consumer confidence is continuing to climb to pre-recession levels. More than 30,000 consumers across 60 countries were polled via the Internet.

The Nielsen consumer confidence index measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate spending intentions worldwide. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism, respectively. Consumer confidence in North America rose three points to 103 in second quarter, compared to first quarter. But in the U.S. it rose four points to 104. Consumer confidence was highest in the Asia-Pacific region, which held steady from the first quarter with a score of 106. India had the top consumer confidence score among 60 countries in second-quarter with a score of 128. But the U.S. ranked eighth highest in consumer confidence, and its four-point increase was among the biggest growths of all 60 countries measured.

The biggest quarterly surge in job optimism also came from North America, increasing 8 percentage points to 46% of respondents. 

More than half (56%) of global respondents viewed their personal finances positively in the second quarter, a slight rise from the past three consecutive quarters, which held steady at 55%. But again, North America reported the biggest regional increase, with 63% of respondents feeling secure in money matters over the next year, up from 59% in the first quarter.

Not every region of the world has an optimistic view of jobs and finances. In Latin America, only 36% of respondents gave positive perceptions about employment possibilities, down from 42% in first quarter. And while 60% of Latin-Americans said they feel secure about their financial situation, that percentage was down from 63% in first quarter and was the only region that showed a decline. However, 39% of European respondents said they were confident about finances and that was the lowest percentage of all the regions.

Countries with the lowest consumer confidence include Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Serbia, South Korea, Greece, Hungary, France, Spain, Finland, Argentina, Bulgaria and Poland.

Countries with the highest consumer confidence include India, Indonesia, Philippines, China, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Thailand, the U.S., Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Brazil.

Focusing on the U.S., almost half the Americans (49%) polled believe it is a good or excellent time to spend, which is the highest level reported since 2006 and up 6 percentage points from the first quarter of 2014, the survey found.

Optimistic perceptions of job prospects and personal finances also rose in second quarter. The report says, “While the outlook for jobs (46%) was still below pre-recession levels (63%), the sentiment represents a significant improvement from 2009, when it was at 20%.” And 64% of U.S. respondents said their personal finances were in good order, an increase of 5% from the first quarter.

James Russo, senior VP, global consumer insights at Nielsen, says sales continue to rise, albeit slowly, and American consumers are in a positive frame of mind. But he says while the trends are looking good for marketers, they do need to be patient.

“In the U.S., positive news for job, housing and equity markets appears to have buoyed the spirits of Americans,” Russo says. “The retail environment for non-durable goods, however, is still catching up. Retail dollar sales of fast-moving consumer goods are up 1.3% in the last six months ending June. Consumers are moving ahead slowly, and marketers need to adjust to a new consumer mindset of restraint, which will take time to reverse.”

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