Australians remain cautious about their Christmas plans despite virus fears continuing to slip down the list of national concerns, with new national data showing people expect to spend less and holiday close to home.
The September ABS data shows business is getting a bounce from the pent-up consumer demand after months of lockdown, and will be hoping the near zero infection rates and the likelihood of an early vaccine leads to a longer-term lift of confidence.
Nonetheless our online survey of 1,749 people taken from Monday 30 November to Wednesday 2 December, shows many Australians are still wary of travel or attending events, which could still slow down the nation’s promising economic recovery.
There is growing confidence that the economy will recover in three months, with 45% saying it will get better over this timeframe, up from 33% a month ago. This week, only 25% say they have spent less money than they usually would have as a result of coronavirus – the lowest point in the study since it began in mid-March.
Notably there is a sharp rise in concerns about regional tensions (60% ‘extremely’ or ‘quite’ concerned, up from 50% last week and 45% a few months ago) due to the emergence of difficulties in Australia and China’s trading relationship.
This week we asked people what impact COVID-19 would have on their spending behaviour and activities over the summer holiday period. As you can see from the chart below it is clear, current sentiment suggests spending is likely to be down particularly in bricks and mortar shops.
Summer holidays may be less boisterous and more sedate for many people still cautious about the pandemic’s longevity. Around 40% say they will visit or socialise with friends and relatives less than last year. Fewer people will take leave, with reduced travel either in their own state or in another state.
Other activities that are expected to be less popular include attendance at fireworks and other holiday events, with 48% of Australians saying they will do less of this. Along similar themes, 43% say they will be less likely to visit the CBD of their city or town, and 43% say they will be less likely to visit large shopping centres.
SEC Newgate will continue to monitor these sentiments as State Governments continue to ease restrictions as Christmas and the summer holiday period approaches.
In a special SEC Newgate Research report prepared for a Committee for Melbourne webinar earlier this week, we found Victorians are keen to get out and about but are not in a hurry to rush back to the office, with many favouring a staggered return over 12 months.
In a study of 845 Victorians conducted last week, just over half (51%) of CBD workers who were currently working from home for at least some of their workdays expect to be back in the office for ‘all’ or ‘most’ of the time in 12 months, with a further 39% saying they will return ‘some’ days. Around 10% say they will ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ return. This is consistent with many other studies we have conducted that show that most full-time workers’ ‘ideal’ is three or four days a week in the office.
Reinforcing that these intentions are driven partly driven by preference, more than two thirds (68%) of Victorians say they feel very or fairly comfortable about returning to their usual workplace. Confidence is lower amongst CBD workers (62%) and higher amongst those working in metro areas outside the CBD (74%).
It looks like regular visitors to Melbourne’s CBD for shopping, hospitality or entertainment will return fairly quickly, with 79% of those who used to visit it at least fortnightly saying they’ll visit in the next month, as well as 50% of those who used to visit once a month or less. Visiting a restaurant or café and retail shopping are at the top of their to-do lists.