Results of the 2015 Cetelem Observatoire on consumer spending

Europeans want to believe that the crisis is over. For the second year running, consumer morale has risen. However, the last five years have brought about far-reaching changes in consumption modes.


73% of Europeans consider that their purchasing power is constrained while 52% declare that they have cut back on their consumption compared with 2009. 64% of the persons interviewed declare that today they push back their large purchases more frequently than they did five years ago.

Consumer morale: consumption expected to pick up in 2015.

Europe returns to growth in 2014. Although unemployment continues to be the blot on the landscape, European consumer morale has improved in the last two years. For the first time since 2008, the morale rating of the French rose slightly (40% against 39% the previous year). Purchase intentions have stabilised on the average, but has risen in France: 30% of the people interviewed are planning to increase their expenditure in 2015 compared with 28% last year. An increase in consumption is therefore expected this year, driven by the slump in oil prices which has lowered household energy bills. The trend is all over Europe since, for nine out of 12 countries interviewed, the increase in expenditure is greater than the intentions to save. This makes three more countries then last year.

More careful and more responsible consumers.

Although there are prospects for growth, consumers have been deeply affected by the crisis for the last five years. 73% of consumers declare that their purchasing power is constrained while 52% feel that their financial situation has deteriorated since 2009. To cope with this state of affairs, Europeans have changed their consumer habits but without giving up on pleasure. For example, 62% of the persons interviewed feel the way they shop has changed during this period. 52% of them have cut back on their expenses. 56% of Europeans declare that they control and have cut down on impulse buying. With respect to prices, European consumers are more careful than they were in 2009: 83% compare more before buying while 79% are now buying smarter (search for promotions, second-hand articles, low-cost products). European consumers have become more mature and are also more attentive to the origin of the products that they buy
(67%) and the environmental impact of its consumption (60%). Alternative consumption modes are now a part of European consumer habits: 6 out of 10 persons resell objects that they no longer use. 66% of them buy second-hand products while 36% acknowledge that they share or exchange goods from time to time. Lastly, and in spite of the crisis, consumption is still and above all associated with the idea of pleasure for 84% of Europeans and 94% of French.

Consumption, time is of the essence

More than four Europeans out of ten say that today they spend less time on leisure activities than in 2009 and consumers spend less time in shops. For 37% of the people interviewed, the time spent in shopping in retail outlets has dropped. For 60% of consumers, when they enter a shop, their aim is to go as quickly as possible. Conversely, online consumption time remained stable for 35% of Europeans and even rose for 49% of them. More time on the web, less time in shops. The search for information about products, deals on websites offering second-hand goods or promotional offers is the main reason for the increase in time spent on the Internet. Some consumers also make the time spent on the Internet or in stores a moment of « relaxation and pleasure, without necessarily buying something ». Time has, for that matter, become a decisive component in the consumer buying decision. In the case of the development of « drive-thru shopping » or web- purchasing, « saving time » is the primary motivation, ahead of economic reasons. Over 40% of European consumers resort to these two consumer modes because they want to save time. This is 10 points more than financial reasons in the case of drive-thru shopping. However, the store has two non-negligible assets: it is synonymous with pleasure and even more, with quality. That is why nearly one out of two Europeans (49%) welcome the extension of store opening hours. 33% of people in France think that opening shops on Sunday would facilitate their shopping, by giving them the time to find information and to enjoy the shopping experience by making sure they have made the right choice.


The social and economic analyses, as well as forecasts were made in collaboration with the economic analysis and consulting firm BIPE, on the basis of the survey conducted between 4 November and 2 December 2014. The survey was conducted via the Internet, by TNS Sofres – TNS_LSR panel, using the quota method: 8,719 Europeans interviewed with samples of at least 500 individuals per country (3,164 persons in France).
Interview of representative samples of national populations (18 years and more) of 12 countries: Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania.

Observatoire Cetelem Consumer 2015