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Published 26 July 2012 05:03, Updated 27 July 2012 07:33
Many Australians could give renowned grumps Waldorf and Stadler a run for their money.
By far the most popular question I get asked when I present on Australian consumer trends is: when will the gloom end?
Or, more accurately, when will we stop whingeing and realise how lucky we are compared with people in the United States. Or Europe. Or for that matter, most of the rest of the world.
The simple answer to that question is that Australians, when they really stop and think about it, do recognise their good fortune. They are just questioning how long our luck will last, given global uncertainty and the quality of our national leadership.
In research we did on Australian identity last year (a low, low point for consumer confidence) participants reflected on the opportunities and benefits of life in Australia. As one man put it so eloquently: “I think we’re very lucky. We’re in a bit of a Goldilocks zone, like with the weather. You know, Goldilocks – it’s not too hot, not too cold – just right. We’re also in the Goldilocks zone for resources, political systems. Nothing’s too out of whack.”
So why doesn’t this understanding of Australia’s strong position in a post-GFC environment translate into greater confidence about the future?
A few things come to mind – continuing volatility in global markets, frustration with the federal government, concerns about superannuation, the cost of housing for future generations and caring for the ageing population. Compared with how consumers were feeling in the immediate aftermath of the GFC, they question whether the resources sector will save us in the future (the recent Deloitte Access Economics report confirms people’s worst fears in this regard.)
All the forces keeping consumer confidence restrained aren’t quick-fix or short term. These issues have affected consumer confidence, I believe, more than shifts in the cost of petrol and vegetables, more than fluctuations in interest rates.
That being said, in 2012 we haven’t seen confidence slide further from its low point in 2011. Consumers have been inundated with negative messages for nearly three years. Despite persistent concerns about national leadership, jobs, cost of living and the global economy, there is no doubt they are ready for a lift in 2012.
Perhaps the time has come to look on the bright side.