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19 February 2013
Consumption 2013 – Germany’s economic boost
Outlook of private consumption in Germany for 2013

Nuremberg, 19 February 2013 – According to GfK forecasts, spending of private households in Germany will increase by 1 percent in real terms in 2013. This was announced by Matthias Hartmann, CEO of GfK, at today’s press conference in Nuremberg. Private consumption is therefore making a stable contribution to the German economy. In light of low interest rates and concern about the future of the euro, consumers are tending to make high value purchases. Moderate growth is forecast for retailers.

German consumers have started 2013 in positive spirits. All indicators of the GfK Consumer Climate were on an upwards trend as the year began. Although economic development noticeably slowed down in winter 2012, for consumers the turning point has seemingly been reached. Economic expectations are currently improving. This assessment of consumers is also shared by business, as demonstrated by the Ifo Business Climate Index, which increased for the third consecutive time in January.

Buoyed by the positive situation on the labor market, German consumers are expecting their income to increase in the near future. The perceived job security is giving consumers the necessary planning security for making major purchases. At the same time, savings and loan interest rates are at a record low. This is above all benefiting the real estate sector, which is proving to be a safe haven in which consumers can invest their savings. According to an estimate from the Ifo Institute, the number of completed homes increased by around 17 percent last year. GfK data attests to an increase of around 7 percent in spending on renovation. Concern about the future of the euro is also enhancing this trend. The former German ‘fear-driven savers’ have now in part developed into ‘fear-driven consumers’.

Moderate retail growth

While real estate is booming, a mixed picture emerges for the development of German retailers. According to GfK calculations, food retailers and drugstores only saw nominal sales growth of 2.2 percent in 2012, to approximately €160 billion. Full-range grocery stores were the clear winners, with sales growth of 4.7 percent. Discount stores registered stable development with a sales plus of 2.4 percent. This general growth was achieved through higher prices, as the volume sales of food retailers declined further. For 2013, GfK is forecasting a nominal sales increase of 1.5 percent for food retail and drugstores, while volumes are expected to continue falling.

In the non-food retail segment, which includes textiles, electronic devices, furniture and home improvement products, sales improved by 1 percent in 2012 to around €150 billion. Sales of electronic devices rose by 2.8 percent, while textiles decreased by 1.6 percent. Online retail was again the clear winner. Sales in the non-food segment increased by 14 percent to almost €24 billion. For 2013, GfK is expecting a slight slowdown in the growth rate for non-food retailers to 0.7 percent. For both food and non-food retailers, GfK is forecasting an overall sales increase of 1.1 percent.

German job miracle

The labor market plays a critical role for a positive consumer climate. Ac-cording to the Federal Employment Agency, average registered unemployment in 2012 was around 2.9 million. This is the lowest level since 1991. The magnitude of the German job miracle becomes truly apparent when viewed in comparison with European neighbors. Germany is the only country in which the number of those without a job has in fact dropped since the pre-crisis level of 2007. While unemployment has fallen by a third in Germany, the overall average increase across Europe was almost 50 percent. In Spain and Ireland, the rise has been more than 200 percent and Greece is suffering from an almost 170 percent increase.

Consumption 2013 – economic boost for Germany

Once again, the outlook for the global economy this year is highly restrained. The Federal Statistical Office estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) of the European Union will grow by 0.4 percent. In contrast, a decline of 0.3 percent was registered for 2012. The danger of an ongoing recession therefore seems to have been averted and it is currently not likely that German exports within Europe will decline further. Following 0.7 percent growth in 2012, Germany’s GDP is forecast to achieve growth of 0.8 percent this year.

In light of the subdued global economy, domestic demand will become ever more important. On the whole, major increases were registered for real (i.e. adjusted for price) spending of private households until the new millennium. In contrast, stagnation was the trend for the next decade. Between the year 2001 and 2010, consumer spending only increased by an average of 0.3 percent in real terms. This development evidently came to an end in 2011, when real private consumption rose by 1.5 percent. Preliminary data from the Federal Statistical Office for 2012 suggests that growth was 0.8 percent, which therefore more or less confirms GfK’s growth fore-cast of 1.0 percent. 

The general conditions for a continuation of this trend are good. The German labor market is seemingly going to remain robust and will ensure a positive consumer mood. Income development is also showing favorable prospects, coupled with a prolonged moderate rate of inflation.

Matthias Hartmann, CEO of GfK, explains: “The euro and debt crises have not yet been solved, but it has been possible to reassure the financial markets. Decisive action will still be necessary to ensure that uncertainty does not escalate again. The trend towards making higher value purchases is unbroken, benefiting from low savings and loan interest rates, as well as consumers’ concerns about the future of the euro. Based on this, GfK is predicting real growth in private consumption of 1.0 percent for 2013. German consumers are therefore once again making a stable contribution to the domestic economy.”

About GfK

GfK is one of the world’s largest research companies, with more than 12,000 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2011, GfK’s sales amounted to €1.37 billion.

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