Bleak Yuletide as consumer confidence drops

The Yuletide is fast approaching, bringing with it a swathe of Christmas parties, gatherings, end-of-year functions and family events. The list goes on. In fact, this time of the year can put a strain on a number of areas, from consumers’ wallets to their belt buckles.

Christmas season, each year, remains the period for never-ending seasonal foods and free drinks, even as a devil-may-care attitude, which can be extremely daunting, particularly for those who try to live a healthier lifestyle, takes centre stage.

Unfortunately, this may not apply to this year’s Christmas, as there are conjectures among consumers that it would be a gloomy event.

Inflation has continued to ravage Nigerians, particularly the poor, who constitute the majority and who are now settling for cheaper products and services, as they try to deal with their declining purchasing power.

The National Bureau of Statistics, said Nigeria’s headline inflation rate increased to 18.6 per cent on a year-on-year basis as of June 2022.

Given the foregoing, the fact that consumer confidence is at its ebb cannot be disputed, as evidence abounds to justify the rising prices of consumer goods across markets.


Consumer confidence

Consumer confidence is an economic indicator that measures the degree of optimism consumers have regarding the overall state of a country’s economy and their own financial situations. It is a vital source of economic information, as private consumption constitutes about two-thirds of all economic activities in most countries.

According to Financial Street findings, during economic expansion, consumer confidence is usually high. Consumers accordingly tend to spend more than they do at other times, especially on bigger-ticket items and durable goods (such as automobiles and household appliances). The increase in consumer spending, in turn, helps the economy sustain its expansion.

If for some reason consumer confidence declines, consumers become less certain about their financial prospects, and begin to spend less. This, in turn, affects businesses, as they begin to experience decrease in patronage. If consumer spending continues to decline and businesses begin to cut back on production, the economy experiences a slowdown and may eventually enter a recession.

As the Yuletide stares at everyone in the face, Christmas shopping ought to have commenced in earnest, but for the unfavourable economic situation, which has resulted in low consumer spending.

Christmas is usually a huge celebration in the country, not only for Christians but also for non-Christians, who seize the season to unwind and exchange gifts, since it is part of activities to draw the year’s curtain. Small wonder, those who planned the Christmas Day on December 25, in their wisdom,attached Boxing Day behind the celebration.


Boxing Day

The name is a reference to charity drives. A box is placed in churches on Christmas Day to collect money for the poor. It is opened the next day.

December 26, the day after Christmas, is also the Feast of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It is also a secular holiday celebrated in parts of the Commonwealth.


Bleak Christmas looms

On the strength of increasing cost of goods and services across the country, not a few consumers engaged by Financial Street speculated that this year’s Christmas might be bleak for most residents of Lagos State, due to the current economic woes.

There is unprecedented increase in the prices of food items in the market, Financial Street gathered, yet salaries remain stagnant. Some even had their wages slashed, while others were relieved of their jobs.

Consequently, businesses have slowed down, and people no longer ‘live large’. What is more important now is daily bread, with little thought about sharing with friends and relatives, which is the hallmark of the season.


Cutting cost

Speaking on the development, Matthew Iwuoha, a resident of Mowe, Ogun State, said the economic situation forced his family to adopt a new lifestyle.

He said, “Things are no longer the way they used to be. This is no longer the time to buy new clothes for children to wear at Christmas. It is not the time to share gifts with friends and family members because the means are not there. The priority now is to cut costs this festive season, and save ahead of January 2023, because survival in the first month of the year is always tough.”

Iwuoha noted that school fees would come knocking as schools resume in January. According to him, if one goes to buy clothes and gifts to please family members and friends just for Christmas, he or she will suffer the consequences in the early days of the New Year when things are dry.

Kennedy Iweka, a civil servant, said, “Consumer confidence is at an all-time low, and the situation is capable of causing consumers to cut back on all areas of spending, as they would try to balance their spending at Yuletide.

“Nearly half of consumers will reduce spending this Christmas on gifts, food, drink and socialising, with more attention on the menu.”

Despite the challenges ahead, sustainability and conscious consumerism remain key trends for consumers alongside affordability and a shift to private labels, he added.

Ben Toriola said, “This is the stage where everyone should take radical decisions on whom he or she actually wants to offer gifts to as Christmas approaches. People should learn to cut down costs by excluding close friends, who will be just as happy to receive colourful Christmas cards. It can be quite difficult, but as earlier mentioned, it is about tailoring your expenses to match the money available.”

On her part, Mrs Beatrice Ogierakhi, said, “The economy has become so harsh that I cannot comfortably afford all that I need during Christmas. All I need to buy is rice and condiments.

“In past celebrations of Christmas, my husband used to buy a bag of rice and chicken. But I doubt if such expenses would easily be made this coming Christmas, as a bag of rice is N48,000 or thereabout. Even chicken may be expensive too. Things are not well in this country, but we shall all survive.”

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