The Greeks may be balking at further spending cuts by their government, but they are voluntarily tightening their own belts in one area: Christmas presents.
According to Deloitte's annual Christmas Spending Survey, the Greeks will be among Europe's thriftiest citizens this holiday season. Each household plans to spend, on average, €319 ($446 Canadian) on Christmas gifts this year, a 22 per cent drop from the previous year. That puts them in second place behind the Dutch, who plan to spend just €260 on gifts.
It's clear this won't be a merry Christmas for the Greeks: the debt crisis that has choked their economy isn't going away anytime soon. Unemployment is soaring and the government is slashing pensions in a bid to stave off bankruptcy. Greeks are striking back with crippling protests and strikes against further austerity measures, but it appears at home they have no choice but to succumb to their new, penny-pinching future.
"Greeks are the least confident consumers in Europe and will make the most significant reductions in their Christmas budget," according to Deloitte.
The Greeks aren't the only Scrooges in Europe this year. Across the continent, holiday spending is predicted to drop by 0.8 per cent to €587 this Christmas as worries about the spreading economic crisis cut holiday budgets in countries ranging from Ireland (-7.4 per cent), Portugal (-7.9 per cent), Italy (-2.3 per cent), and the Netherlands (-2.9 per cent). The pared spending reflects the fact that 60 per cent of Europeans believe there is a recession, according to Deloitte.
"Many shoppers this year find they need to consider their spending more astutely, reduce the number of people on their Christmas lists and turn to more practical and useful presents when gift giving," Deloitte said in a copy of its holiday spending report, which polled 18,354 consumers in September.
"While the impact of the recession varies throughout Europe…the survey shows its effects can be felt everywhere."
A big drop in Christmas spending could put further stress on European economies as retail sales take a hit, Deloitte warns.
"European economies need dynamic consumer spending to support growth," Deloitte noted. "The question is, however, are Christmas shoppers prepared to foot the bill?"
As in previous years, books and cash are what most people hope will be waiting under the tree. And they plan to give chocolates, cosmetics and perfumes to adults.
Still, there are big spenders yet to be found in Europe. The Irish lead the way with a budget of €943, followed by Luxembourg at €923 and Switzerland at €841. Shoppers in the latter two countries are increasing their spending slightly this year, along with Finland, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
There is, of course, a temptation to shop when you're down, Deloitte notes. It appears some European consumers may view this Christmas as the last opportunity to party before the economy really slides.
"Consumers are thus using the 2011 holiday season as the last occasion to enjoy themselves as more difficult times lie ahead in 2012," the Deloitte report stated.