Roundup: Dutch shoppers turn frugal amid economic downturn

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THE HAGUE, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- With Storm Pia wreaking havoc throughout the Netherlands, the harsh weather conditions have dealt yet another blow to the already sluggish pre-Christmas sales in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital.

"There has been a noticeable feeling of shopping fatigue among the people living in Amsterdam," a local resident who asked to remain anonymous told Xinhua.

Long before the storm hit the Dutch shores, however, stubbornly high inflation had already cast a shadow over the festive season by prompting Dutch shoppers to watch their budgets more closely.

According to a report by Dutch news website, some festive products like Christmas wreaths and ragout cost 10 percent more now than a year ago.

The latest figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) also confirm that Dutch shoppers are now buying less food and drinks than they did a year earlier.

They are spending more money on fewer products, while the retail sector must rely mainly on higher prices to maintain turnover, the CBS said.

This trend is not expected to reverse any time soon as the Dutch economy appears to be losing steam.

The Dutch economy contracted by 0.3 percent in the third quarter (Q3) of this year, more than the earlier projection of 0.2 percent, according to the CBS.

The contraction was already the third in a row, following the first two quarters of this year, when the economy shrank by 0.5 and 0.4 percent, respectively.

With three consecutive quarters of contraction, the Dutch economy is now in a technical recession. The last time the Dutch economy continued to shrink for three quarters in a row was during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

CBS economist Peter Hein van Mulligen believes the Dutch economy may remain in the negative spiral in the fourth quarter.

"Consumer confidence is still low and you also see no recovery in the industry," he said.

In a recent forecast, the Dutch central bank DNB said the country's economy is expected to grow only marginally this year, with higher unemployment, a growing number of bankruptcies and less household spending.

The growth rates are anticipated to be 0.1 percent for 2023, 0.3 percent in 2024, and 1 percent in 2025, according to the forecast.

"Nowadays I cut back (spending) on everything," according to a complaint posted by an anonymous reader of the report. "I previously never paid attention to the prices in the supermarkets and bought what I wanted. Nowadays, I am constantly in survival mode. I only buy the essentials and am always looking for special offers. I have become a real miser."

The purchasing power in the Netherlands fell by an average of 1.2 percent in 2022, the biggest decline in 40 years, according to a report the CBS published in September.

The Dutch government has been blaming the conflict in Ukraine for the increases in the prices of daily necessities such as energy, gasoline, and food, making life difficult for many households.

The government has pledged to spend 2 billion euros (2.2 billion U.S. dollars) to alleviate the situation for people with low and middle incomes through offering compensation for high energy prices, housing allowances and tax reductions.

"The purchasing power of most people will increase next year," the government promised on its website. "The average Dutch person will see an improvement of 1.7 percent," it said. (1 euro = 1.10 U.S. dollar) Enditem

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