By Shane McGinley
Two Gulf states are ranked among the top ten most confident and optimistic spenders in new global index
UAE shoppers are among the top five most confident shoppers in the world, with those in Saudi Arabia also making it into the top ten, a new global survey has revealed.
The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index compared shoppers’ opinions in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to the third quarter of the year.
While the global average score was 94, the UAE scored 110 and while this was a quarter-on-quarter drop of one point the emirates was ranked joint fifth with Brazil in the overall rankings, showing shoppers in the UAE are some of the most confident in the world when it comes to spending their disposable income. Saudi Arabia was ranked ninth with 101 points, up four points on the previous quarter.
Across the Middle East and Africa, consumer confidence declined two points during the quarter, with optimism in Egypt declining seven index points to 76, reversing its six-point index gain in Q3.
While three-quarters of respondents in the Middle East and Africa region believed they were in recession in the fourth quarter, which was the highest of any region worldwide, this was not the case in the Gulf states.
Just 44 percent and 51 percent of shoppers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia respectively said they thought their country was in recession, the lowest levels recorded among the countries surveyed.
When asked what they spend their money on 23 percent of Middle Eastern and African shoppers said new clothes, followed by out-of-home entertainment (18 percent), new technology (17 percent), home improvement projects (14 percent) and holidays (13 percent).
The Nielsen research comes as it was revealed The Dubai Mall, Emaar's flagship shopping and entertainment destination, welcomed over 75 million visitors last year, driving a sales boost of 26 percent.
The Dubai developer said that footfall at the mall rose by 15 percent during the year and the mall's 1,200 plus retail outlets recorded a 26 percent rise in sales during 2013 compared to the previous year.
While confident was high in the Gulf, shopper confident was mixed in the euro zone. The Nielsen research found confidence rose sharply in Ireland, which successfully completed its EU/IMF bailout programme late last year, and improved in Germany and Spain.
However, sentiment plunged in France and Portugal and slipped in Greece and Italy.
Countries in Asia, including India and China, continued to dominate the list of most upbeat consumer markets although Brazil, Denmark and Canada also featured in the top 10 markets.
Consumer sentiment in the United States slipped four points from a six-year high in the third quarter although it was five points higher than in the fourth quarter of 2012.
"The lack of additional recent improvement in US consumer sentiment is, in some measure, surprising given the improvements in employment, stock market values and housing that occurred over 2013," said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.
"It is likely that this is a reflection of the uneven manner in which such gains have been made, and also that levels of underemployment and long-term unemployment remain high, with many workers remaining discouraged and not participating in the workforce."
In Japan, stock market gains did seem to have an impact, Nielsen said, helping consumer confidence jump by 6 points from the third quarter to its highest level since 2005. Nielsen was cautious about the outlook for Japanese consumer confidence in the second half of this year however, given a planned increase in sales tax in April.
Nielsen was confident that despite a slip back at the end of last year confidence in the United States, the world's biggest consumer market, would pick up again in 2014 as economic growth gains momentum, supporting the global economy.
"The positive growth trajectory for the US is likely to continue in 2014, and with continued improvement in job quantity and quality, along with a housing recovery, U.S. consumer sentiment is likely to grow as well," Bala said.
The Nielsen survey was conducted between November 11 and 29 and covered more than 30,000 online consumers across 60 markets.
* With Reuters