EDITORIAL: War changes US spending habits

Divisions between what Washington has dubbed the 'old' and 'new' Europe now seem to have extended beyond the political dimension into consumer spending, according to a survey carried out by Fleishman-Hillard last week.

News that American consumers are willing to boycott French, German and even Canadian products in preference to brands produced by US allies is likely to prove a welcome boost in the short term for UK brands and producers at a time when domestic spending has dipped dramatically.

The key question, however, is how long this sentiment will endure. A worrying 48 per cent of those questioned believe that it may take two to three years for consumer attitudes and spending to return to normal, while six per cent believe that the international divisions will be permanent.

Around twice as many Americans can name a German brand or company operating in the US market as a French brand, suggesting that Germany is likely to be the primary victim of this new patriotic spending. However, the fact that Heineken, a Dutch company, was listed among the top ten recognised German brands should give cause for concern.

This politicisation of consumer spending habits is rarely based on an adequate knowledge base or rational thinking. Britain may reap short-term benefits, but if this trend continues it will have a very real impact on all players in an increasingly fractured global marketplace.

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