South Africans will cut back on travel and socialising over the festive season in favour of buying food amid tough economic conditions, according to a survey released on Thursday.
Food spending increased
According to Deloitte's "Year-End Holiday Survey 2014: Savvy Spenders on the Rise", consumers are expected to be more pragmatic in their spending habits.
"The average proportion of the consumer budget that will be spent on food has jumped to 44 percent in 2014 compared to 36 percent last year, while spending on socialising drops to 13 percent from 23 percent in 2013," Deloitte said in a statement.
Read: 27 ways to spend less on food
"Nevertheless, consumers will still allocate a significant portion of their holiday season budget to gifts with 43 percent of expenditure going towards presents in 2014, roughly similar to last year's 42 percent."
Rodger George, Deloitte African consumer business leader, said 66 percent of South African consumers surveyed indicated they would spend more on essential household expenses, such as electricity and groceries, this year.
"Consumers are showing signs of conservatism as general day-to-day living expenses continue to rise while consumers try to stretch their budgets as far as possible."
Poor economic growth
South Africans; spending trends appeared to mirror those in Europe, where consumers were also grappling with poor economic growth.
Deloitte said food (40 percent) and gifts (39 percent) were expected to be the largest share of consumer spend in Europe, while travelling (12 percent) and socialising (nine percent) were secondary.
"This year's Deloitte Holiday Survey indicates that South African consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the strength of the domestic economy," the accounting firm said.
A total of 56 percent of respondents held a negative view of current economic conditions, compared to 53 percent last year.
Read: Recession affecting mental health
"South Africans are, however, less negative about the current economic climate than they were during the recession in 2008 and 2009," Deloitte said.
Ditching chocolate for cash
"Although only 26 percent of South Africans believe the economic environment will be positive next year, this is still significantly better than the 19 percent of Europeans who are upbeat about economic conditions in 2015."
South African men were significantly more positive about economic prospects next year than women, with 33 percent of men holding a positive view compared to 19 percent of women.
South Africans have also ditched chocolate for cash as the number one gift they are most likely to want to receive.
"No less than 39 percent of respondents indicated this, compared to 36 percent last year, followed by chocolates (38 percent), books (36 percent) and clothes/shoes (34 percent).
Gift expectations also differed starkly depending on demographic profile, with 18 to 34-year-olds ranking cash as the most preferred gift, while the 35 to 64-year-olds favoured books this festive season.
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Image: Christmas gifts from Shutterstock