x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Consumers see better days ahead

Consumer sentiment in the Emirates rose a record 13 points from six months ago, reaching 102 on the latest Nielsen poll.

Nielsen said UAE consumers continue to be cautious about spending and are increasingly switching to cheaper grocery brands.
Nielsen said UAE consumers continue to be cautious about spending and are increasingly switching to cheaper grocery brands.

DUBAI // As the global economic crisis began to take hold in the UAE last year, Chris Green traded in his regular gourmet feasts at chic hotel restaurants for meals with more "value for money". But in the past month he resumed his old ways. "What was going to happen has happened," said Mr Green, the 50-year-old South African. "And it has got to the point where people have got over the shock of it and are actually dealing with the reality of the crash."

That viewpoint seems to be shared by many in the UAE, said the research company Nielsen , which released its consumer confidence survey yesterday. Consumer sentiment in the Emirates rose a record 13 points from six months ago, reaching 102 on the poll. That rise is larger than the jump of nine points in worldwide sentiment and the biggest increase the UAE has made in the three years it has been part of the semi-annual survey. The UAE is the eighth most optimistic country out of the 54 in the survey.

Piyush Mathur, Nielsen's regional managing director for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, credited the jump to the improved economic outlook globally and better economic conditions locally. "You've seen a rally in the stock markets in the UAE," he said. "You've seen very little job cuts, which were there a few months ago. With these two things put together, consumer confidence was likely to rise."

Still, Nielsen said UAE consumers continue to be cautious about spending and are increasingly switching to cheaper grocery brands and seeking better deals on home loans and credit cards. The most optimistic country in the survey, which was conducted in September and October, was India at 120 points, followed by Indonesia and Norway, at 115 and 110, respectively. Seven of the top 10 most optimistic countries were developing nations, Mr Mathur said.

All but seven countries saw a boost in consumer sentiment and the UAE was above the global average reading of 86 points. The UAE also rose nine points since Nielsen's quarterly consumer confidence poll, a smaller survey conducted for the first time in June of this year. While job security remained the biggest concern of UAE residents, fewer are worried. Just 40 per cent cited it as a major concern, compared with 50 per cent six months prior. Fewer people are uneasy about the economy as well, with 26 per cent citing it as their main worry, down from 38 per cent.

Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce, a senior economist at Standard Chartered in Dubai, said the improved mood should not come as a surprise. "Most of the indicators in the economy have been improving recently," he said. "If we look at the asset prices, both real estate and stock prices have shown signs of improvement which has helped boost confidence and general sentiment in the economy." He added that some delayed or cancelled construction projects have been revived and some employers are hiring again. Recent successful bond issuances are "proof that offshore as well as regional institutional investors are back to the country with a renewed appetite", he added.

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