x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Shoppers tighten grip on purse strings

Shoppers in the UAE are leading the world in cutting grocery bills to cope with the financial downturn, according to a survey.

Abu Dhabi // Shoppers in the UAE are leading the world in cutting grocery bills to cope with the financial downturn, according to a survey. Out of 500 UAE residents who were questioned, 56 per cent said they had tightened their belts since last year. The proportion was the highest out of 10 countries included in the survey. Next was Malaysia, where 50 per cent had reduced their spending on food this year.

John Surrey, a consultant working with Synovate, the market intelligence firm that conducted the survey, suggested that a high degree of job insecurity among expatriates might explain the figures. "People have had to leave the country because they've lost their jobs and that's weighing on people's minds," said Mr Surrey, who is based in Cyprus. "These things contribute to a feeling of insecurity and that may affect their spending."

Despite their vigilance, UAE and Malaysian residents were the least likely to agree that grocery items were overpriced and should be made more affordable, said Synovate's Dubai-based business development director, Per-Henrik Karlsson. "In both of these cultures, people do not like to admit that they cannot afford items," he said. Synovate asked a total of 6,700 people about their shopping habits. The other countries surveyed were Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, the US and Hong Kong.

Mr Surrey said bulk buying was the most popular method of cutting costs in the UAE, where 77 per cent of locals used it compared with the survey average of 46 per cent. Raju Adepu, an estate agent from India, was bulk-buying in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Pushing a trolley loaded with 40 apples, Mr Adepu, 41, said he was now more careful with his grocery budget than last year. While regular weekly grocery runs may be the norm in most countries, 21 per cent of UAE shoppers said they stocked up on food only "when they have the time". Poor traffic, demanding work hours and long queues were the likely factors behind this, Mr Surrey said.

Mottie al Hajali, 51, a Syrian who manages a courier company, squeezed in a shopping trip before picking his children up from school in the capital. "For me, shopping is all a matter of time," he said. The Synovate survey in the UAE was conducted in July in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. @Email:mkwong@thenational.ae Grocers are not starving for sales, page b7