PwC’s Retail and Consumer Insights provides the latest consumer behaviour news and trends in New Zealand and internationally. We analyse data from the PwC Retail and Consumer Dashboard (focusing on electronic spending by industry in New Zealand) to equip you with insights to inform your business decision making. Our commentary also covers our observations of key changes in the ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index, Stats NZ, Auckland Heart of the City footfall data and other local and global sources.
Key highlights from our August 2021 edition include:
National house price inflation expectations increased from 5.8% to 6.4% (following four months of percentage point declines).
Year-to-date spending in the Hospitality sector is now higher (+2.5%) than the level achieved in the first seven months of 2019.
Pedestrian footfall across the Auckland CBD appears to be stabilising, and in two specific locations (30 Queen Street and 59 High Street) now exceeds pre-COVID-19 levels.
PwC’s recent international survey of travel expectations, attitudes and behaviours highlighted that, as international vaccination rates increase, pent up demand for travel is increasing although health concerns remain paramount.
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ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index for the month of July (released on 30 July) continues to suggest that consumer confidence may have plateaued with the Index declining by a further point to 113 (below its historical average of 120). Consistent with ongoing anecdotal evidence, the proportion of respondents who believe it is a good time to buy a major household item, rose a further two points to +24 - a post-COVID high. From a retail perspective, this remains the single best indicator of consumer sentiment in the Index.
Persistent strength in consumer confidence in acquiring major household items is likely to reflect the perceived wealth effects associated with the ongoing strength in the housing market and improved job security as the labour market continues to tighten. Stats NZ recently announced that unemployment fell a further 0.5 percentage points, from its recent peak of 5.3 percent in the September 2020 quarter, to reach 4.0 percent2.
Despite continued media commentary and political scrutiny, house price inflation expectations rose higher from 5.8% to 6.4% (following four months of percentage point declines). House price inflation expectations increased again in Auckland (from 6.2% to 6.9%) and also rose in the South Island outside Canterbury from 5% to 6.7%.
"While growing market speculation regarding a much anticipated increase in interest rates may test consumer confidence, there is little evidence to suggest that a slow down in the residential property market is imminent. "
1 With special thanks to PwC’s Matt Gunn and Will Cole for their assistance in preparing this edition
Changes in consumer spending habits can be seen in the Stats NZ electronic card transactions series data that includes all debit, credit, and charge card transactions with New Zealand-based merchants. Using the Retail and Consumer Dashboard developed by PwC New Zealand, we are able to compare year-to-date retail related electronic spend data by sector with the comparable periods in 2019 and 2020.
Year-on-year comparisons for the month of July are more straightforward than previous periods as July 2021 is the first month since February 2020 not to have suffered from any regional or national lockdown restrictions or changes in alert level. With less COVID related ‘noise’ it is interesting to note that year-on-year growth in some of the key sectors has now moderated - the Consumables and Durables sectors recorded year-on-year growth for the month of July of 2.9% and 3.1%, respectively.
Year-to-date spending in the Durables sector is still up (+18.7%) compared to the first seven months of 2020, while spending relative to 2019 has also grown significantly (+18.7%) compared to the same period in 2019. In terms of the sector most directly affected by COVID-19, year-to-date spending in the Hospitality sector increased $1.8bn (+31.9%) from $5.9bn in the first seven months of 2020 to $7.8bn in the same period of 2021. More significantly, year-to-date spending in the Hospitality sector is now higher (+2.5%) than the level achieved in the first seven months of 2019.
Total core retail spending in 2021 was up 12.1% and 10.6%, compared to the equivalent seven month periods of 2020 and 2019, respectively. The strength of consumer spending in New Zealand is demonstrated by the fact that spending in all retail categories measured by Stats NZ (with the exception of Fuel which is due to commodity price fluctuations) has now surpassed the pre-COVID levels achieved in 2019.
This represents a remarkable performance, but persistent reports of supply chain constraints and labour shortages remain a concern for the sector. Despite recent announcements3, the timeframe for quarantine free international travel remains uncertain. Such uncertainty, combined with travel ‘hesitancy’ (in the minds of some consumers) and further price inflation, suggests that the outlook for the retail sector should remain positive for at least the next six months.
July electronic spend by sector
Hospitality - change in spending last 12 months
Our PwC Retail and Consumer Dashboard also tracks pedestrian footfall data on an hourly basis across the Auckland CBD4. While the post-lockdown recovery is immediately apparent (in most locations), it is also interesting to note that footfall across the CBD now appears to be stabilising, and in two specific locations (30 Queen Street and 59 High Street) now exceeds pre-COVID-19 levels (based on July 2019 figures). Interestingly, the ‘out-performance’ (relative to pre-COVID-19 levels) at 30 Queen Street is more pronounced, dating back to as early as April 2021, and is evident from 11am onwards, while the ‘out-performance’ at 59 High Street is a more recent development and appears to be concentrated on the lunchtime period.
July monthly pedestrian count
Businesses on Albert St affected by construction of the City Rail Link appear disappointed and frustrated by a recent meeting with Auckland mayor Phil Goff. According to reports, these businesses continue to suffer from construction noise, sewer ‘odours’ and poor access to their stores as the upgrade of the City Rail Link continues. While completion of City Rail Link is not scheduled until ‘late 2024’, many of the businesses that met with Goff were reported as being disappointed after he ‘offered sympathy’, but no solution to the problem5.
Various Wellington businesses and industry groups have formed a coalition to voice concerns over the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme (LGWM). Greg Harford, Retail NZ Chief Executive, is a member of the group and believes the LGWM programme will create more issues than it fixes.6
“It started out as a project designed to reduce congestion through Wellington city, but actually it’s become a project that’s designed to make it harder to drive around.”
4 Source: Heart of the City: https://www.hotcity.co.nz/city-centre/results-and-statistics/pedestrian-counts
To understand the latest shifts in travel expectations, attitudes and behaviors—as well as the sustainability of those shifts—PwC recently surveyed more than 1,300 US consumers and compared the results to earlier surveys conducted in April and August of 2020. Most respondents to the latest survey told us they have at least one flight and/or an overnight stay planned for business or leisure within the next 12 months.7
Key insights and potential learnings from this survey include:
Internationally, consumers are on the move again, requiring travel providers to think about how best to balance supply with demand in the wake of nuanced consumer considerations.Despite the propensity for price to dominate travel purchase decisions, consumers also have health and safety concerns. Higher income households have seen an increase in savings. Combined with increasing vaccination rates, this bodes well for travel. In fact, our survey indicates that consumers are willing to spend more money (13%) for nicer accommodation (28%) and for longer periods of time (24%) on future travel.
Safety matters to consumers; they underscored that for us. Our survey found that a clear majority (85%) have either already been vaccinated or plan to be. And 70% favour vaccination verification while travelling. However, public-health concerns linger: (i) More than half (56%) believe brand-name hotels are safer than short-term rental properties; (ii) only 13% feel short-term rentals are safer alternatives; (iii) almost a third (28%) plan to stay at higher-end properties than they did before the pandemic; and (iv) a third of travellers (36%) are willing to spend more to increase the distance between themselves and others on a flight.
By a wide margin, travellers who have taken at least one trip since the onset of the pandemic enthusiastically recommend it to others: more than 70% would recommend flying and more than 60% would recommend overnight stays to those who have not yet travelled. Meanwhile, a small group (10%) of those who have already travelled are unwilling to recommend it to others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these reluctant travellers rated every type of social gathering as riskier than the travel enthusiasts.
After more than a year of remote work and video calls, we expect business travel to make a gradual comeback in the months ahead. However, as business leaders rethink corporate travel policies, the future of business travel remains somewhat unclear. Consumers expect business travel to return sooner rather than later. Some 40% of business travellers surveyed believe they will meet or exceed pre-pandemic levels of business travel by the end of 2022. However, business traveller enthusiasm appears to be lagging: 75% of business travellers in our survey are not excited about or are indifferent to travelling again for work.
While consumers are eager to travel, they may not go back to their pre-pandemic providers. When we surveyed consumers last summer, some 40% told us they would likely switch loyalties. That trend is now taking root: One in three travellers followed through when it came to trying a brand other than the one currently holding their highest loyalty programme status. 85% of them told us they’re likely to stay with the airline they switched to while 76% said the same about hotels.
The Commerce Commission has released a draft report on competition in the retail grocery sector. Insights indicate that the market is not working as well as it could be. Observations of this include persistently high returns being earned by the major retailers Foodstuffs and Woolworths NZ when compared to an assessed cost of capital, and high grocery prices when compared internationally. The Commerce Commission has also suggested that other smaller grocery retailers have a limited impact on competition, as they are unable to compete with the major retailers on price or product range. They go on to state that competitors looking to enter or expand in the market also face challenges, such as a lack of competitively priced wholesale supply. This report has been welcomed by the New Zealand food and grocery industry, who has voiced its support for the potential entry of foreign supermarkets.
Retail NZ reported that more than two-thirds of its members are expecting prices to rise over the next quarter. Over half of retailers report that prices have already gone up and discounting levels have decreased. Despite this, confidence remains steady and spending has stayed strong with average retail spending up 9.8% from June last year.8
Fix & Fogg has stolen the show at the Wellington Gold Awards taking home the supreme prize. The company has grown rapidly and recently locked in a contract with a major US grocery chain, Whole Foods, which has over 500 stores across North America.
New Zealand luxury accessories label Deadly Ponies is set to open its first Australian store, on Armadale’s High Street. Deadly Ponies creative director and co-founder Liam Bowden said the new store ties into the brand's New Zealand experiences but also experiments with new concepts.
Fashion label General Pants plans to expand to 65 stores across Australia and New Zealand as part of its growth strategy to focus on Gen Z and millennial customers. In the past 12 months, the brand has opened eight new outlets, three of which are in New Zealand, and plans to accelerate its store opening plan.
Silk Laser Clinics is set to acquire Australian Skin Clinics (AUS) and The Cosmetic Clinic (NZ) in a deal estimated to be worth A$52m. This will add 56 clinics to Silk’s existing network of 61 clinics, bringing it closer to its expansion plan of 150 stores.
The a2 Milk Company Limited confirmed the completion of its acquisition of a 75% interest in Mataura Valley Milk, a dairy nutrition business located in Southland, for $268.5m. A2’s chief executive Geoff Babidge said the deal gave his company the chance to get into the manufacture of nutritional products and provided supplier and geographic diversification, as well as strengthening links with key partners in China.
The PwC Retail and Consumer Dashboard is updated monthly, to include the latest data on electronic spending, consumer sentiment and Auckland pedestrian analysis. Through our dashboard we identify and analyse trends over time, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdowns. If you are interested in online access to our dashboard to help inform your decision making, please contact: Matt Gunn
PwC has advised many of New Zealand’s largest listed and privately owned retailers across a wide variety of projects and roles, including assurance, tax, capital solutions, transactions services, M&A, restructuring, real estate, supply chain and digital consulting services.
We have a comprehensive understanding of the rapidly evolving retail environment (offline and online) and are uniquely placed to combine strategy with technical, industry and execution expertise. We pride ourselves on a focused partnership approach to our work in the sector, based on principles of trust, independence and challenging insight, using specialist teams tailored to specific client needs.