Growth, inflation and labour market all easing
The NAB Consumer Stress Index fell for the second straight quarter in Q4 2021.
Consumer stress eases further as job fears fall to a 3 year low. But cost of living pressures are climbing with prices now perceived as rising economy wide. Amid the spread of Omicron CBD visitation is down. But most workers want to return some time to the office.
The NAB Consumer Stress Index fell for the second straight quarter in Q4 2021 to 55.1 pts (from 55.5 in Q3 2021 & 55.6 in Q4 2020, and well below the survey average of 58.8), underpinned by lower stress over jobs (42.4 vs. 45.0 in Q3), now at a 3-year low. With a Federal election looming, concerns relating to government policy also eased (60.7 vs. 61.8 in Q3), while stress arising from funding retirement was also slightly lower (55.6 vs. 55.9 in Q3). But the cost of living has re-emerged as a serious worry for Australians. Household stress associated with cost of living has risen to 62.6 (61.4 in Q3) to regain the mantle of the biggest driver of concern for consumers. Stress associated with health also increased to 54.5 (53.5 in Q3).
Consumers are shopping more mindfully and cost-consciously, with demand for local, sustainable and value brands rising. The recent surge in digital and omnichannel adoption, particularly among new or infrequent users, also looks set to continue. Many habits formed during the crisis are likely to endure well beyond it, presenting businesses with the opportunity to align to changing consumer mindsets and shape emerging habits.
Questions remain about the future character and function of the CBD. Australians estimated on average they were spending around 59% of their week at their workplace and 41% at home. When asked about their ideal future work situation, the split was remarkably similar to today – 56% of time at the workplace and 44% at home. So while hybrid working is clearly the preference, most employees also want to spend time in the office.
CBDs will rebound but will have to evolve with commercial, residential, cultural/social amenities and open/pedestrian spaces co-existing more harmoniously with “liveability” at its heart. The cost, accessibility and safety of transport networks are more important than ever. Parking is also an issue. Affordable housing options are another element of CBD revival, creating a more diverse mix of residents and supply of workers.
Get all the insights in the NAB Consumer Sentiment Survey (Q4 2021)
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