Spending more while remaining prudent
Spending intentions are up
Thus, spending intentions are back up to pre-pandemic levels, with an average of 41% across the countries covered by the survey. In every country, these intentions have either remained stable or increased. In some nations, the rise has been particularly sharp, not least in Eastern Europe, with Romania emerging as the starkest example of the phenomenon (+17 pts). Slovakia also stands apart, with 83% of respondents saying they intend to increase their spending.
Western countries are slightly less enthusiastic in this regard, although the Belgians also appear much more inclined to step up their consumption (+10 pts). Nonetheless, most of the results are lower than those recorded for the 2019 Barometer, a sign that the crisis is still playing on the minds of consumers. Only Belgium and the United Kingdom post pronounced increases since the 2019 survey (+6 and +9 pts).
The desire to save remains strong
Conversely, intentions to save have remained stable over the last year, although in many cases they are now significantly greater than prior to the health crisis (+15 pts in France between the 2019 and 2022 Barometers) (Fig. 6 Barometer).
54% of Europeans intend to save more. A degree of anxiety and the need to prepare for potential future misfortunes are therefore ever-present in people’s minds, especially at a time when good news follows bad news and vice versa, with there being no guarantee that the former will ultimately prevail over the latter.
This apparent stability masks quite variable intentions from one country to the next. In four countries, France, Sweden, Spain and Bulgaria, respondents intend to save more (+4, +3, +2 and +1 pt, respectively). However, a larger proportion intend to save less, although the falls posted are moderate (the largest drop is -6 pts in Romania).
Spending focused towards the home and beyond
So what do these intentions to spend more tell us? First and foremost, having been stuck within their borders, at best, and confined to their homes, at worst, frustrated Europeans are now determined to get out and about. Purchase intentions centred on travel and leisure have seen the strongest increase (+10 pts), reasserting their position at the top of the list, which had wavered last year. Marked increases in several other categories confirm the desire expressed by Europeans last year to prioritise their home, their comfort and the organisation of their living space, highlighting the pandemic’s impact in prompting people to refocus on themselves and on their family.
Indeed, home improvement / renovation, buying furniture and purchasing household appliances are up +3, +3 and +2 pts, respectively. In contrast, European consumers seem to have acquired all the electronic and leisure equipment they could need during the various lockdowns. Faster broadband, tablets and games consoles are down slightly, but smartphones and streaming subscriptions are up a fraction (Fig. 7 Barometer).
The desire to spend is being kept under control
Purchase intentions have therefore increased somewhat, but the desire to spend lags far behind, confirming that the time to celebrate and throw caution to the wind is not yet upon us. Compared with the previous Observatoire Cetelem Barometer, this desire has stabilised to some extent (+1 pt), but still fails to reach the level recorded before the health crisis (Fig. 8 and 9 Barometer).
Meanwhile, the previous geographical trend has been reversed, with the desire to spend falling in Eastern European countries, but rising in the West. The Poles post the biggest drop (-7 pts), while Austria, France and the UK are where the largest rises are recorded (+6, +5 and +5 pts, respectively). And although the score posted by the Italians has fallen significantly (-5 pts), their desire to spend more remains the second strongest in the survey, just behind the Bulgarians.