Inflation and high energy prices weigh like boulders everywhere. But if in the USA, despite a slowdown in sales, people continue to spend, in Europe, the will to buy is (much) less carefree. While in Asia, in our geopolitics of consumption, the light of Seoul does not dispel the Chinese shadows and Japanese hesitancy
Between the end of tourist shopping and the beginning of Christmas shopping. With inflation and high energy prices weighing like boulders. Problems are common to all consumers who, however, are reacting differently. For example, in the USA, they are showing that their desire to spend is still strong. So do the Chinese who, however, are being held back by Beijing’s zero Covid policy. On the other hand, Europe is suffering: last summer, it was saved thanks to the purchases of American tourists enticed by the new dollar/euro ratio. Here, then, is our necessary attempt to draw the geopolitics of consumption in late 2022.
The geopolitics of consumption
In many European countries, inflation hit a record high. In Italy, consumption fell by 12% in October, the same percentage with which inflation rises. Fixed costs are rising, and 11,000 small clothing, accessories, and footwear businesses were ready to close. Also in October, in France, sales of clothing and accessories in shops fell by 6.1% year-on-year, according to the Panel Retail Int. pour l’Alliance du Commerce. A disappointing trend that the association attributes to unfavourable weather (too hot) and rising fuel costs that curbed travel to shopping centres.
In the UK, lifestyle retailer Joules (132 stores and 1600 employees) went into administration. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that the rising cost of living is having a negative impact on retail sales. And the unusually mild weather is also penalising clothing and footwear. Many families are putting off shopping in anticipation of Black Friday and the Christmas sales that will start earlier than usual.
US retail sales increased in October as consumers continued to spend despite rising prices. Fourth-quarter GDP estimates were up as inflation began to show signs of cooling. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, consumer prices increased 7.7 percent in October compared to last year. That’s a slowdown from 8.2% in September. There is a brisk labour market, and excess savings from pandemic lockdowns will be the fuel for Christmas shopping. “Spending has gradually slowed but remains solid. Consumers continue to show resilience despite high inflation, rising borrowing costs, and widespread macroeconomic uncertainties,” says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at NRF – National Retail Federation.
It will be the needle of the scales in the coming months. China is still grappling with the zero Covid policy, while in Japan, ‘there is not much in the way of customer recruitment’, says HSBC analyst Erwan Rambourg. In Beijing, retail sales of clothing, footwear, hats, and knitwear fell 7.5 per cent in October compared to October 2021 and 0.5 per cent on September 2022. South Korea emerged as a bright spot for luxury consumption, despite its relatively small population of 51 million (Japan 125 million, China over 1.4 billion). According to estimates by Morgan Stanley‘s Edouard Aubin, Seoul accounts for 8% of total luxury goods spending worldwide, tied with Japan, while China is at 27%.