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Christmas spirit remains with Swiss shoppers

(Keystone)

The Swiss are not going to let the gloomy economic outlook spoil their Christmas, according to international consultancy firm Deloitte.

The study contradicts however findings published last week by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) which said consumer confidence in Switzerland was at a five-year low.

On Monday Deloitte said 73 per cent of the 940 people questioned in October reported that the ongoing financial crisis "would have no significant influence" on their general spending habits.

This positive outlook puts Swiss shoppers above the European average of 62 per cent.

But the study also revealed that the high cost of food could influence the spending of consumers – especially those on low incomes – over the holiday period.

Traditional presents such as books, DVDs and gift vouchers continue to be popular among the Swiss, according to Deloitte, although computer consoles remain high up young people's lists.

Cash also remains in demand. But whereas 39 per cent of respondents would be happy to see a wad of money under the tree with their name on it, only 17 per cent wanted to give it.

The same went for more expensive presents including jewellery, watches and holidays.

Christmas with a conscience

Most Swiss buy presents in department stores or supermarkets, although specialist games retailers and book or music shops can expect solid seasonal trade.

Internet or catalogue retailers on the other hand play only a secondary role, according to Deloitte.

Another area where Swiss shoppers differ noticeably from Europeans is the amount of importance they place on price. Only 27 per cent of Swiss find the cost of an object to be the most relevant factor, compared with 37 per cent for the European average.

Sixty-two per cent of Swiss are also willing to pay more for presents that are produced under what they consider socially, ethically or ecologically acceptable conditions.

More than half of respondents admitted that product recalls have a negative effect on their purchasing habits – bad news for toys made in China, which after a series of health alerts this year could expect to be left on Swiss shelves.

However...

Deloitte's relatively rosy image of Christmas consumerism nevertheless clashes somewhat with recent figures from the government's economic agency.

On November 10 Seco said its consumer confidence index had sunk in October to minus 27 points, down from minus 17 in July.

The October value, Seco said, was below the long-term average (1972-2008) for that month by approximately eight points.

Two of the three sub indexes Seco uses to judge consumer confidence fell substantially in the last quarter. Swiss opinion regarding the general economic situation dropped from minus 25 in July to minus 57 points.

People had also become more concerned about their jobs with that index sinking from minus 21 to minus 61, it said.

Consumers said their own financial standing over the past 12 months and for the coming year remains nearly unchanged.

swissinfo with agencies

Economic forecasts

The KOF Swiss Economic Institute in Zurich has revised its 2009 GDP growth forecast from 1.8% to 0.3%, but said it would increase to 1.5% in 2010. It also predicts the economy will grow 1.9% this year, compared with its summer forecast of 2%.

KOF also predicts inflation will fall from 2.6% in 2008 to 1.5% and 1.6% in the next two years, allowing the Swiss national Bank to lower interest rates in the winter.

Private consumption will also drop from 1.9% in 2008 but remain relatively stable at 1.1% in 2009 and 1.4% in 2010. Part of the reason for this fall would be a less generous wage increase (2.8% for next year) and an increase in unemployment from 2.5% this year to 2.8% and 3.1% in the next two years.

Credit Suisse's economic research unit paints a somewhat rosier picture, predicting a fall in GDP from 1.9% this year to 1% in 2009.

Inflation should drop from 2.2% (2008) to 1.4% while the rate of unemployment should rise from 2.6% to 2.7%.

The amount of money companies and other institutions invest in expansion projects such as mergers and acquisitions will fall dramatically, Credit Suisse predicts. Such capital investments will drop 1.5% in 2009 compared with this year.

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