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Global Buying Behaviour in the Recession

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How are people changing their shopping habits in the recession? Bargain hunting is the most important aspect of the experience for global shoppers, but it's important to note that just going to the shops figures as the second most important aspect, even when they don't buy anything.

These top-line results come from the new Strategy Briefing on Consumer Buying Behaviour in the Recession which analyses the results of Euromonitor's 2011 Annual Study and examines the implications of these findings for marketers. This report provides unique strategic insight from Euromonitor's most experienced industry analysts into the why behind behaviour and how we anticipate this will impact on future market trends.

Euromonitor International's Annual Study surveyed 16,000 consumers of all ages (15-65+) in 8 mature and developing markets in July and August 2011, questioning respondents on the following themes: health and wellness, food and drink, technology, shopping and leisure, personal traits and values. For more information on Euromonitor's survey findings, please see the Survey page.

Key findings

  • Bargain hunting emerged as the most important trend: globally, 59% of respondents like to find bargains, which was higher for women (64%) than for men (54%).
  • UK and US consumers are most interested in bagging bargains, with 76% of respondents in both the UK and the US ticking this statement.
  • Despite consumers reining in expenses, leisure shopping remains important: as many as 47% of respondents (50% of women and 44% of men) like to visit shopping malls even if they do not require anything specific.
  • Window shopping is most popular among the youngest age group: 56% of them like to visit malls, compared with just 39% of those aged 60+.
  • This activity is also especially common among the more affluent consumers in Brazil and India, where 60% and 61% of respondents ticked this statement, respectively.
  • Younger consumers are more spontaneous: 46% of respondents aged 60+ only shop for groceries with a shopping list, compared with just 31% of those aged 15-29.
  • Only 29% of respondents are drawn into stores or onto websites as a result of retailer loyalty programmes. These are more popular among those aged 30-44 (34%), who are most likely to be buying for the whole family.
  • 30% of female respondents claimed to regularly buy themselves small treats on the basis that they “deserve them”, compared with 26% of men.
  • Younger people aged 15-29 are most likely to buy themselves small treats (32%), compared to just 22% of those aged 60+.
  • Brazilian respondents were rather partial to treating themselves, with 42% of respondents ticking this statement.

Smart shopping

It has already been stated that a key outcome of the recession is the desire among consumers to hunt more aggressively for bargains. While those suddenly unemployed are finding themselves with time on their hands to search out the best deals, those who are working harder than ever to keep their jobs are seeking bargains online to save themselves both time and money.

Hence, when asked about other buying behaviour, the most commonly ticked statement on a global level was “I like to find bargains.” This ties in with other answers relating to saving money and shopping in discount stores, with even consumers at the upper end of the income scale seeking maximum value for their money.

The heightened interest in bargains has benefited discount shopping and auction sites on the web such as eBay, as well as traditional outdoor markets and grocery discounters. EBay has moved away from its original auction site model and now claims that around 60% of its sales are fixed price, making its marketplaces more accessible to a broader audience of shoppers and enabling it to compete better with the likes of Amazon. In April 2011, the company reported a 16% rise in quarterly revenue and a 20% rise in quarterly profits.

Retail therapy

Despite consumers' more prudent buying behaviour, the popularity of shopping as a leisure activity was confirmed by the survey results. The shopping mall format originated in the US in the mid-1950s, and spread worldwide. Some of the world's largest shopping malls are now to be found in Asia, with China's South China Mall and Jun Yuan Mall having gross leasable areas of more than half a million square metres. Larger shopping centres usually have at least two anchor stores, typically department stores, and a wider selection of smaller stores. Most large shopping malls also have food courts, which consist of shops stalls offering different cuisines.

Despite the depressed economy, many shopping centre developments are still enjoying healthy patronage. These formats offer the convenience of everything under one roof, as well as parking facilities, eateries and other forms of entertainment such as cinema complexes. Even with less money in their purses, consumers are able to window-shop or seek out bargains.

A loss of loyalty

Among the main consequences of recession was the loss of consumer loyalty. Consumers from all countries and all social classes were unafraid to change their traditional brand preferences, opting instead for private label or any products on special offer. This caused many brands and retailers to fight back with promotions and other marketing devices in order to recover trust and loyalty from previous consumers and keep existing ones. However, the fact that just 29% of respondents claimed to be attracted by retailer loyalty programmes suggests that retailers must work to improve their current systems, perhaps taking inspiration from successful programmes such as Tesco Clubcard in the UK.

Women enjoy a treat

A significant proportion of respondents claimed to regularly buy themselves small treats on the basis that they “deserve them." This reflects the well-documented “lipstick effect” theory that women often fore go extravagant purchases in times of recession, such as cars, holidays and kitchens, and instead splurge on small luxuries to boost their morale, such as cosmetics or fragrances.

Global: “Look at the following statements and tick all that apply”, by gender

% respondents ticking



Source: Euromonitor International Annual Study 2011

Global: % respondents agreeing with the following statements, by age group

% respondents




Source: Euromonitor International Annual Study 2011


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