Brazilian households are tightening their belts in reaction to the country’s deep recession as consumer concerns have reached their highest levels since 2009.
That’s according to the latest study by Boston Consulting Group’s Center for Customer Insight. In a survey of more than 2,000 Brazilians, their responses reflect anxiety over job concerns and personal debt. Forty-nine percent of respondents were male, and 51 percent were female. Across both genders, 42 percent were between ages 18 to 34, 30 percent between 35 to 49, 15 percent between 50 and 59 and 13 percent 60 to 74.
According to BCG, 72 percent of respondents said they intend to cut discretionary spending in the year ahead. Further, consumer concerns have reached the highest levels since BCG began surveying Brazilian consumers in 2009. About 51 percent now said they are “anxious about the future.” That’s in contrast to the 39 percent who said the same thing in 2014 and the 30 percent in 2012. Spending cuts are expected across the board from luxury goods to services, food, apparel and home appliance purchases. The intention to “trade up” is also at its lowest in five years. Those who plan to trade up said functional beauty and personal-care products, as well as healthy food, are the top priorities.
Given the current attitude, BCG partner Daniel Azevedo said “consumer product companies that have ramped up for dramatic growth will have to streamline their operations and be very strategic in their approach to the market.” He added that companies can’t afford to bail out of Brazil. That’s because the rationale is that if brands scale back now, they run the risk of losing customer loyalty, which could be difficult to regain when the economy eventually recovers. Brazil remains an important growth market in spite of the current economic hiccups.
In Brazil, rising personal debt is one significant constraint on spending. Forty-three percent of respondents said they are devoting more than 30 percent of their incomes to paying off debt, up from 33 percent in 2014. Further, 54 percent said they are borrowing to pay routine expenses such as rent, utilities and groceries.
Spending patterns have altered consumption patterns as 95 percent of consumers have changed their shopping and saving behavior in some way. BCG said 63 percent of respondents said they are eating at home more often, while 60 percent said they are “buying fewer things overall” and 58 percent said they are saving more.
A higher proportion of respondents this time around also said they plan to trade down to lower-value nonfood items, 67 percent compared with 33 percent in 2011. Top trading down priorities are magazines, luxury brands, fashion jewelry and travel purchases.
BCG noted that 80 percent of consumers surveyed said they believe Brazil is facing an economic crisis, and 58 percent said they think the recovery will take more than three years. Brazil slipped into a recession in mid-2014, after a decade in which GDP growth averaged 3 to 4 percent. In addition, the weakened Brazilian real has hurt consumers, making imported goods more expensive. The real has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar over the past year, BCG noted.