Higher prices, poorer quality: Inflation weighs heavily on Middle East shoppers

Nearly two thirds of consumers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE plan to tighten their belts, PwC report finds

A shopper looks at fruit prices at a supermarket in Abu Dhabi. Nearly two thirds of consumers say they are cutting back. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Two-thirds of shoppers plan to tighten their belts due to the rising cost of key goods, a survey has found.

A PwC poll found rising prices for household goods were the top concern for 40 per cent of respondents in Egypt, 35 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 28 per cent in the UAE.

The auditing company found reduced product quality, higher prices for basics and long delivery times on online goods were key trends.

Shoppers now spend much more time switching between physical stores and online deliveries to find the best value goods, it said.

“Consumers and retailers are impacted by rising inflation and cost of living, which in turn influences how consumers shop and make lifestyle choices,” said Norma Taki, PwC’s Middle East consumer markets leader.

“Today, we see that consumers are going hybrid and easily switching channels, between online and in-store shops, or a mixture of both.”

At less than 5 per cent in 2022, inflation in the Gulf has been much lower than in Europe and North America. Government pricing controls on key foodstuffs and low transport costs linked to cheaper petrol are factors.

But many families have tightened their belts, with residential tenants in the UAE and Saudi Arabia seeing increases in the past year.

Headline inflation in Egypt in March was 33 per cent, a record high.

PwC said that on average, shoppers expect to spend mainly on groceries (47 per cent), fashion (40 per cent), and consumer electronics (36 per cent) over the next six months.

“Consumers are becoming more cautious about spending on luxury, home entertainment and virtual activities and increasingly looking for promotions,” PwC said.

PwC's Pulse 5 Middle East findings were based on responses from 771 consumers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It said 86 per cent of the samples are in the 18-41 age group - reflecting the region’s young demographic profile. About 74 per cent are employed and 39 per cent say they have a hybrid-working pattern.

Since January, The National has been tracking the prices of food staples in supermarkets across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in India, the UK and US to see how consumers have been affected by the rising cost of living. Read about their experiences here.

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Updated: May 03, 2023, 4:47 PM