A majority of Malaysian shoppers are aware of price increases with three in five indicating that they only buy essential items or cut down on luxury items, according to Nielsen's latest online consumer findings.
Nielsen Malaysia retailer services director Jake Shepherd said Malaysian consumers are cautiously optimistic.
"There are concerns about the broader economic climate and local events, but they remain comfortable about their own personal finances," he said in a statemement.
He added that this comfort may not always translate into additional spending as they remain price-sensitive and may look to cut back on luxuries or buy less in total if they feel their weekly food budget is stretched, which could stifle industry growth.
"They are also more likely to spend their spare cash on paying off debt than spending compared to other Asia Pacific countries," he said.
Nielsen's latest global online consumer confidence findings indicated that 86 per cent of Malaysian shoppers know very well about increases in the prices of goods and 63 per cent of hypermarket and supermarket shoppers said they only buy when necessary and willing to reduce their purchases on pricey items.
Nielsen's annual Retail and Shopper Trends Report, which identifies key trends and market shifts in the grocery sector, also revealed that about one-third or 32 per cent of shoppers would buy less in total to counter price increases, representing the highest percentage in Southeast Asia along with Vietnam.
"The reaction from shoppers to economise isn't a surprise and it has the potential to impact the growth rates for the total fast-moving consumer goods market," Shepherd said.
Nielsen's survey also showed that while traditional grocery (8.6 times), wet markets (5.1 times) and vegetable vendors (4.4 times) are still the top three most frequently visited channels per month, their visit frequencies have declined over the last three years.
Hypermarket visits remain relatively stable and their market share reflects this, the survey showed. "One of the contributing factors of the volume decline could be the performance of the hypermarkets," he said.
Using face-to-face interviews, Nielsen's Shopper Trends survey was conducted in Bukit Mertajam, Butterworth, Ipoh, Klang Valley, Johor Baru and east coast. More than 2,000 respondents aged 15-65 years old were selected through random household selection.