Gender-based spending hurting retailers: Report
The bank's latest Viewpoint report examines the differences between men and women's perceptions of the economy and their willingness to spend.
The research suggests that women are far more pessimistic about the economic outlook, with just 21% of women surveyed prepared to say the economy was "strong" (compared to 38% of men) and 24% of women claiming the economy was "going downhill" (compared with 21% of men).
According to CBA chief economist Michael Blythe, the pessimism appears to be directly contributing to depressed retail conditions.
The CBA research shows women are mostly responsible for most retail spending in a household – including items such as food and groceries, department store spending and clothing – while men are responsible for bigger-ticket items, such as cars and furnishings.
"The divide in gender perceptions, and some factors influencing that divide, provide some rationale for apparent consumer caution and the patchy nature of that caution," Blythe says in the report.
"The retail component of consumer spending is where the real weakness lies; the non-retail component of the consumer story if noticeably more robust."
Blythe says while retail spending is running at a well below the long-term trend, non-retail spending remains at average levels seen over the last decade and some items, such as motor vehicles, are actually selling well.
So what is driving heightened levels of concern among females? Blythe says fears about job losses have passed but they have been replaced by concerns about meeting rising living costs, particularly mortgage repayments, food and other basic household items.
Blythe says this appears to be a hangover from the GFC, which appears to have left a far greater impression on women.
"It appears the GFC made women much more careful about spending, while men saw it as an opportunity to get some great bargains."
The survey also highlights the crucial role women play in managing household finances. While 69% of men and women said they run their finances jointly, almost 70% of women say they have the task of balancing the family budget. The same proportion has responsibility for buying groceries and buying items for children.
And joint finances clearly don't work for everyone – 9% of respondents admitted to having a credit card they keep secret from their partner, while 6% admitted having a secret bank account.