Consumers in Costa Rica are increasingly attached to a short list of purchases, which has caused the ‘impulse buying index’ to decrease. This is one of the results of the study “Hábitos de Consumo 2018” (Consumption Habits 2018), recently conducted by Asociación GS Uno Costa Rica.

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This analysis, which was conducted for the thirteenth time in the country, confirmed that in 2017, 64.1% of consumers claimed to make an impulse purchase, while this it is 51.8%.

This, according to GS Uno, is due to a possible perception that it is not a good time to spend, given the current economic situation of the country.

The promotions were the reason for those who did impulse spend, 37.3% saying they let themselves be carried away by an offer to buy a product that was off their list, while the previous year this indicator reached 58.2%.

This cautious behavior of Costa Rican consumers was also reflected in the payment method when making purchases. In 2017, 35.7% claimed to use a credit card in supermarkets, while for this year only 18.3%.

On the other hand, the payment in cash was 48.6%, six percentage points more than the previous year and the use of debit cards increased 12 percentage points, compared to 2017.

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“This confirms that we Costa Ricans are being more cautious in the use of credit,” said Guillermo Varela, executive director of GS Uno.

The survey analyzed the behavior of consumers:

  • For this year, the tendency to buy biweekly (quincena in Spanish) was maintained and the monthly shopping increased by 10 percentage points, mainly by people over 50.
  • Although the Costa Rican consumers have been splitting their purchases over time, that is, they buy in at least two establishments; This practice shows a decrease with respect to the previous years and to the generations: the older, the less the fraction.
  • The price or promotion is the most important factor for fractioning purchases (affirmed by 51.2% of respondents), but the quality of products is becoming more important. In 2017, only 4% took this into account and for this year the result was 19.6%.
  • In terms of product brands, men stand out as more faithful: 47.6% compared to 40% of women. That is, in case they do not find the brand they are looking for, more men prefer to visit another supermarket to purchase the item.
  • Half of the consumers choose the supermarket closest to their home to make purchases, a trend that increased by 15.9% compared to the previous year; while the number of people selecting the establishment based on prices and promotions, doubled compared to the same period, reaching 14.7%.
  • An important finding for this year, little by little, the pulperías (corner stores) recovered their ground as the point of sale to purchase last minute items. The previous year registered a 14.2% share and by 2018 almost 30%.
  • On the experience in supermarkets, 74% of the respondents rated the speed at check out very good to excellent. This is attributed to the implementation of contactless payment technology and the elimination of the voucher signature (for under ¢15,000 colones).

“In the face of greater consumer mobility and brand loyalty, the points of sale reinforce the importance of offering attractive prices and promotions, in order to maintain the loyalty of their buyers,” added Varela.

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This year, the survey took in the response of 672 consumers who were buying at four of the main supermarket chains in the country, in its four formats: hypermarket, supermarket, warehouses and discount.

The data coincides with the data provided by the latest Consumer Confidence Survey, prepared by the Statistics School of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), which reveals less willingness of the consumers in Costa Rica to spend.

It also echoed the figures published by the Central Bank on household consumption, which reflect a slowdown compared to 2017.


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