Consumer-spending crash adds to recession woes

Shoppers unable to take advantage of seasonal discounts

Consumer-spending crash adds to recession woes

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, July 5 - Consumer associations expressed concern on Friday over record drops in spending during Italy's longest-running recession since World War II. Consumer spending in Italy plummeted a record 2.8% in 2012, Istat said Friday. It was the steepest plunge since the statistics agency started its current measuring system in 1997. Around half of Italian households spent just over 2,000 euros a month in 2012, about the same as in 2011, Istat said. Consumer group Codacons said that shoppers spent an average of 828 euros less over 2012 compared to the previous year, or 69 euros per month. Average monthly expenditures for food also dropped from 477 to 468 euros, 108 euro less on an annual basis, the group said. Codacons says the data is "dramatic". "The point is proven by the fact that Italians have to reduce necessary purchases like their food expenditures. And they can't afford to buy home appliances even if there are sales going on," Codacons President Carlo Rienzi said. Consumer protection agency ADUSBEF also sounded in on the drop in food consumption. ADUSBEF estimates that families with three members have slashed grocery shopping budgets by 302 euros per family per year. "This trend is accentuated even more by the fact that despite the sharp fall households' purchasing power, prices continue to rise," ADUSBEF said. Annual clothing sales that start on Saturday and usually entice even the most hesitant shoppers are expected to be impacted as well, said Codacons. Italian fashion lovers will be capping their spending at 70 euros per person at this year's sales, 22% less than in 2012, Codacons estimates. To seek out more budget-friendly stores, shoppers are willing to hit outlets and discount basements found on the outskirts of large cities, said the group. Despite penny-pinchers' willingness to travel further for savings, discount shopping centers are also expected to see a drop of 12% in sales compared to 2012. "Tourists may be the only ones spending in the country," Rienzi said. "Because of the current economic crisis and in view of hard times, budgets will be limited to end of season discounts and purchases will include only indispensable objects," Renzi said. Only 45% of Italian families will be able to take advantage of end season discounts, Codacons estimates.

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