Happiness down, expenses up
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Happiness down, expenses up

Worried Thais stocking more essentials to adapt to lockdown living, Hakuhodo survey shows

Cautious consumers are making sure they have the essentials they need to get through the lockdown.
Cautious consumers are making sure they have the essentials they need to get through the lockdown.

Many Thai consumers are spending more, even as the difficult economic conditions caused by the third wave of Covid-19 bring more stress and unhappiness, a new consumer survey shows.

Most consumers are stocking up on essential goods, particularly food and necessities, as they remain largely housebound, whether because of lockdown orders or fear of contracting the coronavirus, says the Thailand Consumption Forecast for August 2021.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,200 Thais aged 20-59 years old, conducted by the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living Asean (HILL Asean) in Thailand, in collaboration with Socius Co.

Some respondents said they would set aside some money to be spent on the upcoming Mother's Day on Aug 12, believing it can foster a little happiness that helps reduce the stress and anxiety caused by daily updates on increasing Covid cases, uncertain vaccine delivery schedules and political turbulence.

Having suffered a blow from the pandemic, more people are seeking ways to adapt to survive and thrive in different living conditions, said Chutima Wiriyamahakul, business director of HILL Asean.

Forced to stay home to reduce the spread of the disease, some have managed to learn new skills including how to make more money online, she said.

The level of happiness of people living in Bangkok and the "dark red" zone provinces has fallen two percentage points from the last survey the company conducted in June. Looking at major changes in consumer spending behaviour, two key indicators can be explained as follows:

Consumers are focusing more on value maximisation and upskilling. Most people are still very cautious, creating spending plans ahead of time to help them cope with unpredictable conditions. Some are looking to maximise their knowledge and skills by using a smartphone or a computer to learn or seek opportunities to earn money through online business.

Bangkok residents are seeking to improve life at home by purchasing more amenities, for example bedding and electrical appliances. Meanwhile, people in northern and eastern Thailand want to spend time and money outside, getting ready for outdoor activities, such as dining or travelling, as the Covid situation where they live is less severe.

Mother's Day has become another focal point for consumer spending. Many people want to impress their mothers with something special, for instance, asking them out for a nice meal where possible, or surprising them with special items like handbags, shoes or jewellery.

To effectively reach consumers amid the current challenging conditions in Thailand, Hakuhodo offers two suggestions:

First, consider zone-based communication. You need to differentiate between online and offline media in response to different conditions. People living in the dark-red provinces are forced to rely more heavily on online communication, which has become crucial for people working from home and students who cannot attend physical classes.

People living in provinces with fewer Covid-related controls can be exposed to both online and offline communication, as some are still able to commute from one place to another or spend long hours outside their residences.

Second, use trend-based communication. Focus on home-based activities and upskilling. Categorise your message according to people's different interests in activities that can be conducted at home, and learning programmes that can enhance knowledge and skills to improve self-reliance and increased earning potential.

Because things have changed, people have to adapt significantly to survive the unprecedented impact of the Covid crisis, said Anunpapa Siriwan, strategic planning director of Socius. Looking at changes in consumer behaviour, one development of note is that many people domiciled in the northeastern region of the country have decided to return home after lockdowns were declared in the Greater Bangkok area where many of them were working.

Many plan to remain in their home provinces for the long term and that seems to have triggered an increase in spending as they settle in. Aside from common consumer goods, people tend to spend more on fuel or transport required for daily routines, while probably setting aside some money for home renovation or decoration.

Categorised by age, people aged 20 to 39 prefer to buy affordable products, such as home furniture and decorative items, to help facilitate their work-from-home routines. Adults aged 50-59 focus more on basic necessities to make their daily lives more comfortable. These consumers are also willing to spend more on health and beauty products.

According to the survey, the five product categories on which consumers intend to spend the most in August are:

1. Food (25%)

2. Daily use products (17%)

3. Mobile phones and smartphones (11%)

4. Computer and tablet accessories (6%)

5. Clothes and accessories (5%).

HILL Asean surveys consumers in Thailand every two months to provide forecasts on future consumption trends, based on its commitment to understanding sei-katsu-sha (holistic person) more deeply.

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