It's fewer than 100 days to Christmas , but what will it look like this year as large parts of Australia still wait to emerge from lockdown?
Print text onlyPrintCancelIt is fewer than 100 days to Christmas, but what will it look like this year?Key points:Consumer sentiment is up, even with large parts of Australia locked downPeople not yet vaccinated - but looking forward to it - are the most confident group
People unwilling to be vaccinated are the least confidentWith his toy shop in outer-suburban Melbourne shut, Dean Niclasen is filling online orders from a nearby warehouse. His customers are bored of the pandemic."It's been driven not by purchases for children, but by adults," he said, reaching to a shelf for a $300 box containing NASA's Discovery space shuttle.
"So lots of puzzles, and lots of adult-oriented LEGO sets."People are looking for things to do at home, really."Confidence to spend is upSurprising news this week has buoyed retailers wondering how heavily to stock their shelves for a holiday season following a traumatic and difficult year. headtopics.com
With Victoria and much of New South Wales – the nation's most populous states – in lockdown, when data was collected on how consumers felt in September you would have expected it to reflect a nation stuck on the couch indefinitely.Instead, the long-running Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment was up, with respondents ready to spend big and looking forward to the future.
According to Westpac chief economist Bill Evans, a 2 per cent jump "at a time when Australia's two major cities are in full lockdown and the economy is contracting is extraordinary evidence of the resilience of the Australian consumer"."It really does emphasise the optimism that is building around the vaccination program."
'Hibernation' may endOn a clear day you can see from Sorrento's pier all the way back over the bay to Melbourne.Fashion boutique Sorrento Collective is on the main street and remains open, but only to pack online orders and answer the door for click and collect pick-ups.
"At the moment the business is pretty much in hibernation," co-founder Domenique Nestel said from the Victorian holiday spot.Domenique Nestel is more confident she will be able to buy stock for a particular season.(ABC News: Peter Healy)"We have the website running that we're doing small amounts of sales through … it's keeping us in touch with our customers but pretty much we are just sitting tight trying to survive." headtopics.com
The consumer sentiment index increased to 106.2 in September from 104.1 in August.A reading of 100 means optimists equal pessimists, so the current reading signifies "optimists comfortably exceed pessimists" according to the research.That shows something incredible has happened.
In August last year, Victoria was in a lockdown that wouldeventually stretch to 111 days.Even though it was the only state locked down, the national Index stood at 79.5. The fear of what was ahead next stopped people spending.even though Melbourne, Sydney, the Australian Capital Territory and various regional areas are locked down right now, consumers feel more confident than they did in surveys taken five years before the pandemic.
As the report puts it, consumers are "looking through current lockdown disruptions to a sustained improvement".Rising vaccination levels boost the likelihood of lockdowns ending (and being less common in future) and that people will enjoy a merry Christmas and a better 2022.
That is pumping optimism through people's wallets.Domenique Nestel is more confident she will be able to buy stock for a particular season – and sell clothes in that season to people who have got the occasions to wear them to."I think for the first time in the last couple of weeks – listening to the plan out, with the vaccination rates increasing – we're feeling really hopeful," she said. headtopics.com
"And we feel that we can actually plan for the first time in two years, really."To-be-jabbed most confidentThere is an astonishing split in how hopeful people are feeling, based on their vaccination status.Confidence is up among the 57 per cent of respondents that have had at least one vaccine dose: it is at 103.7 points.
Even higher is confidence among the 27 per cent of people who are unvaccinated but willing to get the jab. It is a white-hot 121.6.The strongest gains in how consumers are feeling were in the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups, many of whom have only just been given access to the vaccine program.
The twist?The remaining 16 per cent of people who responded to the survey, who described themselves as either unwilling to be vaccinated or undecided have a sentiment level of 90.It is the only group where pessimists outnumber optimists, economist Bill Evans confirmed.
"I think those people for various reasons have decided not to be vaccinated, but they must be fearing the insecurity of being in the society when case numbers are going to be high, most people are vaccinated, and they may be vulnerable."Read more: ABC News »
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