April 5, 2014 3:33 am JST

Half of consumers went on spree ahead of tax hike: poll

TOKYO -- About half of consumers did last-minute shopping before the 5% consumption tax rose to 8% on Tuesday, snapping up such articles as food and daily goods, a Nikkei survey finds.

     Of the respondents, 50.2% said they bought goods or services earlier than they otherwise would have in order to beat the tax hike. Last-minute purchases averaged 525,000 yen ($5,000), including homes and automobiles as well as renovations. Factoring out such infrequent purchases, the figure came to 89,000 yen, translating to tax savings of less than 3,000 yen.

     Food items were bought by 72% of the last-minute shoppers. Many made bulk purchases of items with long shelf lives, such as cooking oil, seasonings and liquor. And nearly 70% bought such everyday goods as tissues, toilet paper and cosmetics.

     Asked how much they bought, the largest percentage replied a month's worth. But a significant number stocked up with supplies for six months or longer -- 17% for daily goods and 20% for food -- a development likely to affect sales at stores for a while.

     The respondents who did not do last-minute shopping had their own stories to tell. Four in 10 said that they could buy discounted goods cheaply even after the tax hike, while more than 20% said there was nothing they wanted to buy.

     The higher tax is certain to have some impact on consumer spending, as roughly 70% of respondents said they would try to spend less. Of women in their 40s and 50s -- a group that actively engaged in last-minute shopping -- around 80% said they would practice thrift after the hike. Many consumers mentioned that they would try to cut spending on dining out, fashion, hobbies and leisure activities.

     The online survey was conducted by Nikkei Research from Sunday to Tuesday, targeting men and women from their 20s to their 60s. Valid responses were received from 2,800.