I have spent the last two weeks in and around all things Asia and out of CBD retail.
During this time, I attended the second annual ‘Sydney in Asia’ lunch hosted by Lord Mayor Clover Moore at Sydney Town Hall. The relevance and importance of Asia generally, but China specifically, on all of Australia was not lost on the attendees, me and 300 of my closest new mates. People who own micro businesses for themselves or who manage divisions of major corporations, all of whom have a shared desire for a growing a prosperous business and cultural relationship with China.
I did my bit for cultural alignment by paddling a Dragon boat in the 20th Annual Chinese New Year celebrations at Sydney’s Darling Harbour too, which was an event commentated in English and Chinese.
The week earlier, marked by the arrival of the 24 millionth new Australian, I spent time walking large shopping malls outside of the CBD around Sydney and Melbourne looking not at shops but at shoppers. New Australians populate these suburbs, many of whom were buying home furnishings and white goods to furnish new homes in our CBDs and outer CBD suburbs.
New arrivals come armed with cash to start a new life in a new country. They spend big in the first 24 months then hunker down and work hard and save to rebuild their wealth. It seems to be a common phase that I went through when I arrived, and most of my friends did too. The combination of new high and medium density construction of apartments being bought or rented by new arrivals is bringing a concurrent boom to retailers that sell stuff to go inside new homes. JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and a whole plethora of privately owned furnishing retailers are thriving.
As I write this I’m heading up to Singapore for a week to work with an Australian business that helps Australian and international companies access retail in Asia, and Asian retailers access Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific islands. In the Sydney-based office of the company I’m working with there are 10 different nationalities by birth and in the Singapore office, there’s eight. It’s a symbiotic relationship we have with each other in Asia and on the Pacific Rim. We are not part of the European Union, nor the North American Free Trade Agreement bloc, so we need to trade with each other to grow and do so well.
As the year plays out, there may be some clarity in our global share markets, commodity prices and currency rates. But there may not be. What there will be at the lowest and most important level are lots of shoppers shopping. That will keep all of us busy and gainfully employed through the year of the red monkey.