Nielsen: Increasing global consumer confidence

Global consumer confidence increased five index points to 94 in Q1 2012, according to global consumer confidence findings from Nielsen. Nielsen is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties.

Households around the globe experienced brighter personal situations in terms of jobs and personal finances last quarter, especially in the U.S. and Asia, which was reflected with improved consumer confidence and higher discretionary spending,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. “While global economic conditions are more stable than in the depths of the European sovereign debt crisis late last year, underlying economic conditions are still fragile and fluid in many parts of the world, which could affect consumer confidence and spending momentum for the coming quarter.”

In the U.S., consumer confidence rose nine points to 92, its highest level since before the recession while China’s consumer confidence increased two points to 110, its highest level since the inception of Nielsen’s index in 2005.

The biggest quarterly confidence gains last quarter came from Taiwan (+13), Chile (+11) the United States (+9), Venezuela (+9), Malaysia (+6), Denmark (+6), Estonia (+6), Saudi Arabia (+6), United Kingdom (+6), and Peru (+6).

India remained the world’s most optimistic market for the ninth consecutive quarter with a one point consumer confidence increase to 123, followed by Saudi Arabia (119), Indonesia (118) and the Philippines (118). Hungary was the world’s most pessimistic market at 32 index points, followed by Greece (37) and Portugal (39).

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News from the chainsaw message-bearer

The message that Dr. Bertram Kandziora, CEO of the Stihl AG & Co. KG, carried at the press briefing on annual results could not have been better: 10.8 per cent growth in 2011 with a record turnover of 2.6bn Euros and excellent prospects for the future development of the company.

“We have been able to strengthen our position in the worldwide market due to our widespread product line and our unique structure of distribution. I am confident that this trend will continue in the current and in the following year,” said Dr. Kandziora. Traditionally, the German market was stable and sound with a share of some 10.6 per cent of the total turnover, but foreign markets significantly contributed to last year’s extraordinary yield. Especially in several regions in Eastern Europe and some Asian and Latin American threshold-countries sales-figures rose above average. This also earmarks the company’s longstanding foreign activities. Their distribution company in Canada celebrated its 30th anniversary last year with further jubilees celebrated in Hungary (20 years) and South Africa (15 years).

For decades, Stihl’s key to success is the quality and reliability of their products. “Last year,” stressed CEO Dr. Kandziora, “our art of engineering reached yet another peak with the development of the first electric fuel injection in a hand-held motor-driven device.” Indeed, the new Stihl angle grinder TS 500i was equipped with this brand new technology. Although its fuel consumption was reduced by 15 per cent, it nonetheless has 20 per cent more power than previous models. This year Stihl will introduce some new chainsaws and sweepers.

After the very promising first quarter of this year and with the company’s policy of careful planning and flexible production capacities the CEO’s forecast may well come true.

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Crisis? What crisis?

The economies in our united Europe are still pretty different from each other. While some markets bloom, others are close to wilting. This, of course, has its effects on the garden and leisure industry, too.

“Way to go!” they may say in Germany and The Netherlands. Their GDP (gross domestic product) is growing and their groovy home markets are a good place to knock down. The spending behaviour is very promising for the leisure and garden industry, especially now with the beginning BBQ-season. Almost every night TV ads for barbecues and bangers are on the box and DIY-superstores sell a chunk of barbecues, charcoal and garden furniture.

This, however, is different in Spain. Although the Spanish economy is not nearly as sick as the one in Greece, they are in dire straits. Youth unemployment only recently reached its peak by almost 50 per cent and Spanish retailers eat their heart out for a speedy recovery of the home market. The situation in Italy is almost the same, but, furthermore, the Italians had to overcome yet another government crisis. Could it get any worse? Yes, it could, if you look at Portugal. Their GDP has fallen very steeply and thus the home market almost vanished. But according to Murphy’s Law, if one thing goes wrong, there will be soon another problem. And so it did in Portugal. The government increased VAT on plants from six to 23 per cent, payable within 45 days – although the government itself takes 200 days to settle its bills. Those nurseries that did not go bust as a result of the enormous VAT-rise had to fire 50 per cent of their work-force.

Hope dies last could be the motto for the nurserymen in the UK. The British currency is not joined to the Euro and thus they don’t have to pay their contributions to the rescue of the Greece economy, as the Euro-countries must do. However, the Sterling is bound by the exchange rate. If the Euro rate moves over €1.25 against the Pound the UK-market would become that more appealing to overseas competition. That is what the UK horticulture hopes for and it looks like they don’t have to hope until the cows come home.

The European garden and leisure market is astir. Some companies might go to the wall, as they already did in Portugal, but those who survive the crisis will be stronger than before. Even if the production level went down, this would make life better for those that remain. How do you see the future in your country? Rosy? Obscure? Dark? And what do you do to survive the crisis?

UK garden centres successful with GYO

According to the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Garden Retail Monitor, 2011 was a successful year for garden centres in the UK as overall sales were up six per cent compared with the previous year. This must be largely attributed to the highly popular Grow Your Own (GYO) programme, which grew by 34 per cent.

Top sellers in the GYO sales were tomatoes and herbs with 20 to 25 per cent. Strawberries, apples, lettuce, potatoes, peppers, onions, raspberries and carrots complete the top ten GYO crops. 

HTA also found out that using social media is a suitable tool for raising the turnover of a garden centre. However, owners have to designate someone to run social media and allocate sufficient time to do it, because social media cannot be run successfully just as a sideline. Furthermore, social media channels should be linked from the garden centre’s website. It is also important to closely watch the competitors’ activities in region and sector and to develop ideas to boost sales on special occasions. If it is all done diligently, social media may well contribute to stimulating the sales figures.

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One language – different markets

The situation for DIY-markets in the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) is hallmarked by individual impacts. While turnovers in Germany and Austria grew, Swiss DIY-markets had to suffer from the rainy summer and the strong Swiss Franc.

Germany: DIY-markets’ garden departments successful

Moderate temperatures in the fourth quarter 2011 showed their positive effects on German DIY-markets’ turnovers. With this growth at the end of the year, the annual closure of the DIY-industry yielded a nominal surplus of 1.5 per cent. Thus, the total gross turnover of the currently 2.442 DIY-markets in Germany summed up to some 18.7bn Euros.

Germans favour DIY-markets also for shopping flowers and plants for their gardens, garden furniture and barbecue equipment for the next BBQ-party. In 2011, the garden departments in the DIY-markets generated a turnover of 4.1bn Euros, which equals an increase by two per cent compared with the previous year.

Austria: Positive consumption climate

“Don’t save, buy quality” seems to be the name of the game for Austrian consumers. This had a positive effect on Austrian DIY-markets, too. In total, they achieved a gross turnover of 2bn Euros in 2011, which is equivalent to a growth rate of 1.6 per cent. Especially the garden departments cashed in on the warm temperatures in April and May.

According to the current BHB/GfK-Report, this upward-trend will continue for Austrian DIY-markets in 2012. Contrary to business expectations, Austrians are not at all worried about their future income and thus, they do not tend to connect the crisis and the recession with their personal life. However, before money might diminish in value due to inflation, Austrians prefer to invest their money in their homes and gardens.

Switzerland: Strong currency hampers growth

Last year was a difficult one for Swiss DIY-markets. Consumption significantly diminished mainly due to the over-valuation of the Swiss Franc, which resulted in a nominal decrease of the annual turnover of 2.1 per cent.

The pleasant spring-like weather in the first quarter contributed to an unusually early but also very positive start of the season. However, the rain-swept spring and summer caused a severe slump in DIY-markets’ turnovers. Furthermore, due to the Euro-crisis the Swiss Franc was revaluated, which finally led to a price increase for merchandise and services. Thus, the Swiss went abroad shopping in their neighbouring countries.

Experts from the Technical University of Zurich expect a devaluation of the Swiss Franc this year. Depending on its scope, the federal DIY-association BHB reckons that a growth potential of the gross turnover of 1.0 to 1.5 per cent could be achieved in 2012.

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