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Italians more pessimistic about financial security than Americans

Only 9 percent of Italians believe they are in a better position this year, compared with 53 percent of Americans, according to a Kellogg School survey

12/29/2011 - Consumer sentiment in the United States is improving, while Italians are facing a grim outlook amid the euro debt crisis, a sluggish economy and new government austerity measures, according to a new study by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Bocconi University.

The Kellogg Shopper Index finds that more than one-third of Italians believe their households are in a worse financial situation than last year and only 9 percent believe they are in a better situation.

Despite threats of another global slowdown, Americans rank their current household financial status much higher. Fifty-three percent of Americans believe they are better off financially this year and only 16 percent believe they are worse off than last year.

Eric Anderson
Hartmarx Professor of Marketing
Director of the Center for Global Marketing Practices
“This study is a first effort to elicit and compare consumers’ perceptions in the United States and Italy in regard to their financial situation and holiday spending,” said Eric Anderson, co-author of the Kellogg Shopper Index. “The findings provide a snapshot of the current psychological motivators like consumer power, social class and promotion-prevention focus facing the two countries.”

This edition of the Shopper Index compares Italian and American consumer attitudes toward their financial resources and holiday spending. The survey was designed by Eric Anderson, the Hartmarx Professor of Marketing; Derek Rucker, associate professor of marketing; and Richard Wilson, a clinical associate professor of marketing of the Kellogg School. Professors Andrea Ordanini and Lei Wang of the Cermes Centre for Research and Marketing at Bocconi University contributed to the report, as well.

The study also finds that 36 percent of Italians are less able to meet their expenses this year than last, with only 9 percent saying they are better able to meet expenses. In contrast, 51 percent of Americans say they are better able to meet expenses while 15 percent say they are less able.

“Disparate economic factors in the United States versus Italy are clearly reverberating into distinct psychological mindsets of the consumer,” said Rucker.

The Italians surveyed were pessimistic about the future as well. Thirty-six percent of Italians believe their households will be worse off financially next year and only 15 percent believe they will be better off, whereas 62 percent of Americans believe they will be in a better situation next year and only 6 percent believe they will be worse off.

Study Also Finds Major Differences in Online Shopping

The study also finds significant differences between Italian and American shoppers’ holiday purchasing behaviors. Italian consumers tend to spend a lower percentage of their money online than their American counterparts. Only 24 percent of Italians are spending more online this year versus last year, while 55 percent of Americans say they will spend more this year online than they did last year.

Only about one in 10 Italians (13 percent) spend 60 percent of their shopping budget online, while roughly four in 10 Americans (44 percent) say they spend more than 60 percent of their budget online.

Italians also say they will not spend as much in stores this year with only 10 percent reporting they will spend more in stores than they did last year. This compares with 32 percent of Americans who say they will spend more on conventional retail shopping.

“While the declining state of household financial confidence means that shoppers in Italy are spending less money than they did last year, the spending cut for Italian consumers is greatest for those who spend most of their money online,” Wilson said. “And mobile price shopping in Italy does not appear to have caught on as significantly as it has with American shoppers. In our survey, Italians were 40 percent less likely to often use a mobile device to check prices while shopping in stores.”

The reduced Italian spending can also be seen in whom consumers are buying for: themselves or others. Italians spend considerably less money on themselves during the holiday season than do Americans. Only 6 percent of Italians say they are spending more on themselves this season, compared to 45 percent of American consumers who say they are spending more on themselves. Furthermore, far fewer Italians say they are spending more on gifts for others, compared to Americans (6 percent versus 45 percent).


Supported by the Kellogg Center for Global Marketing Practice, the Kellogg Shopper Index is a national survey that collects data from an online panel of more than 1,400 participants. The purpose of the index is to develop a 360-degree perspective of consumer spending habits that explores what/how people plan to purchase items or services, as well as the underlying psychological and financial drivers of their spending behavior. Based on key findings, the index offers fresh insights and practical applications for businesses and marketing practitioners. The Kellogg Shopper Index is compliant with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) standards. For the Italian data, nearly 800 participants submitted responses; the information was collected by Symphony IRI. For more information vist Kellogg Center for Global Marketing Practice.