'Asians Worry about Money, But Still Indulge in Luxuries: Poll'

Times are tough these days and money is a worry, but many Asians believe the best way to weather the global economic crisis is to indulge in little luxuries, according to a new regional survey.

The economic downturn started a long way away from Asia, but it has caused 86 per cent of people in the world's most populous region to worry about their finances, and spurred 80 per cent to save for the future, according to the annual "Eye on Asia" survey, by global marketing communications firm Grey Group.

But 82 per cent of respondents also believe that indulgence was the best way to beat the stress of modern life, and that spending time with family, short holidays, spa sessions and small luxury items were among their favorite ways to relax.

Nearly 70 per cent of respondents said life should contain as many luxuries as possible. "There's no more taking a month off and spending it at a luxury resort," Charu Harish, regional communications planning director for Grey Group Asia Pacific, told Reuters.

"People are looking for as many little luxuries as possible to beat the stress, and that involves more short breaks, most likely with the family, and a bigger focus on luxury."

The survey is one of the largest snapshots of opinions and trends in Asia, polling more than 33,000 people from 16 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

While the poll found that an overall 76 per cent of Asians were optimistic about the future and some 40 per cent believe their household finances will improve in the next year, the regional averages did not reflect discrepancies between developed and developing countries -- or nations that have been hit badly, and not so badly, by the credit crisis.

While nearly 40 per cent of Asians polled said they were less content than a year ago, Harish said people from India, China and Vietnam were the most likely to shrug off the downturn, while respondents from the more developed Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Japan were the least positive about the future. "But what this shows is that Asia, overall, remains a huge opportunity for marketers," she explained.

"People here are not as sceptical as in the West, nor as negative. Asians are keen for more fun," she said, adding the survey showed 90 per cent wished their life had more fun.

The survey, which also looked at shopping habits in the downturn, divided the Asians polled into five retail "tribes". Nearly a quarter said they sought value-for-money products now, while just over a fifth, especially in China and India, want new brands, variety and a distinctive retail experience.

The least number-16 per cent-put function first.

Not surprisingly, 90 per cent of the new-brand seekers regard shopping as therapy, closely followed by status-seekers who want their goods to reflect their wealth and social standing. "People overall are being more choosy on what they spend on, as they are saving for the future," Harish said.

"Better value for money is the overriding trend in Asia, where 95 per cent of respondents are saying that is what they seek." The poll, conducted by Grey Group's sister company The Kantar Group, was based on face-to-face interviews and an online questionnaire and involved people aged between 18 and 65.

By: Reuters; Singapore

Originally published in "The Economic Times" dated June 24, 2009