Bahrain: Global economic uncertainties and falling oil prices haven’t forced Bahrain’s top spenders to tighten their purse-strings but there is a marked shift towards intelligent spending, according to a new survey.
A research commissioned by American Express Middle East across five GCC countries, except Saudi Arabia, revealed that 61 per cent of respondents in Bahrain said they had spent the same or more than planned last year.
“However, 39pc cut back on spending – the highest of all countries surveyed,” said American Express Middle East chief executive Mazin Khoury.
He was revealing the findings of the survey during a Press conference at the Capital Club, Bahrain Financial Harbour yesterday.
The American Express Middle East Spending Survey also revealed that 43pc of respondents in Bahrain contributed less to savings and pensions schemes last year.
A total of 430 people including expatriates who have all lived here for more than a year were involved in a series of face-to-face interviews conducted by German market research institute GfK in November and December last year.
The respondents were aged between 18 and 49 and earning annual household incomes of $75,000 or higher and included American Express card-holders and others.
“A total of 56pc of respondents in Bahrain prioritised experiences over physical goods,” said Mr Khoury.
Around 6pc still had room for luxury spending equivalent to around $730 of monthly household income spent on the good things in life.
This was less than the regional average of around 9pc or $2,000, and behind Qatar, the region’s highest spenders, where the monthly average spending on luxury was more than $4,000.
Seventy per cent of those surveyed in Bahrain spent more on rent and 62pc spent more on food and drinks to consume at home.
In Kuwait, for example, 81pc spent more on rent and 56pc spent less on socialising and going out.
Similarly, in Oman 88pc spent more on food and drinks for home consumption, while 56pc cut back on savings.
Overall, there was a noticeable shift in spending habits with many in the region focusing more on the necessities of life.
“In the region, Bahrain residents focused more on spending on necessities of life rather than luxury items.
“The categories people spent the most on in terms of luxury experiences were holidays (32pc), hobbies (23pc) and fine dining (15pc).
“Dubai is still by far the number one destination for luxury spending in Middle East for people in Bahrain.”
The top three categories with increase in spending overall was food at home (75pc), rent (68pc) and household items (67pc), while the top three categories where spending decreased were dining out (38pc), socialising and concerts (42pc) and saving and
Mr Khoury said that even with economic changes looming in the region majority of the respondents said they continued with same spending last year and intend to maintain it this year.
“Despite the economic headwinds across the region, our research shows little slowdown in the volume of spending but we have seen a significant switch in how people are spending their disposable income.
“It is evident that people are spending more cautiously and are focusing on essentials.”
Saudi Arabia was not covered in the survey as it is operated by the American Express Saudi Arabia, a joint venture company equally owned by American Express Middle East and The Saudi Investment Bank.