Almost 60% of Australians feel they have been personally affected by the global downturn, a new survey shows, but a retail expert says it’s important to put such surveys into context.
Last month, Boston Consulting Group conducted its 11th annual Consumer Sentiment Survey, surveying 15,000 consumers in 16 countries, including more than 1,400 Australian consumers.
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The survey reveals 58% of Australian respondents feel they have been personally affected by the global downturn, an increase of 9% since last year’s survey.
The percentage of Australian respondents saying there felt affected by the global downturn compared favourably to the 74% in the US and 69% in the United Kingdom.
However, it was much higher than the 44% in China.
The survey also found 50% of the Australian consumers surveyed intend to spend less on discretionary items, compared to 47% last year, while 22% feel insecure about their current job.
Brian Walker, managing director of The Retail Doctor Group, says while he doesn’t doubt the methodology of retail surveys, they do tend to perpetuate the “sky’s falling down” mindset.
“When you look at these surveys, you can’t help but wonder if [the respondents] were asked to reflect on what is positive [in addition to the negative],” he says.
“You get the answers to the questions you ask… It would be interesting to see the questions.”
“What real value does this survey generate other than to continue to build on this mindset of, ‘We’re all in crisis mode’?”
In addition to surveys, Walker says retailers should also be wary of retail “buzz words” such as the “cautious consumer”, arguing consumers have always been cautious.
“People generally don’t throw every dollar away,” he says.
Having said that, Walker says there is no doubt retailers continue to struggle, although some retailers are doing better than others.
“Paradoxically, the premium brands and the very well defined brands… are still trading very well, so it’s important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” he says.
“A lot of people run around talking about their problems but don’t think about the solutions… You’ve got to rise above it.”
“In terms of retailers motivating and captivating shoppers, it’s about having a well-defined brand, an experience, being relevant to consumers and knowing who your customer is.”
Retail guru Debra Templar, who heads up The Templar Group, says the likes of Topshop and Zara show the retail industry is still very much alive.
“You can’t do the same old, same old, and you jolly well better make sure your staff know how to sell. The days of waiting for the customer to choose something and bring it to the counter are gone,” Templar says.
“It only gets worse if you decide it gets worse.”