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Retailers Concerned As Australian Consumer Sentiment Hits Five-Year Low

Westfield Sydney

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Confidence has fallen by 3.8% to hit 91.9, from 95.5 in February.

This marks the index’s second lowest level since the GFC, when the index bottomed out at 79.

As a result of fears surrounding COVID-19 and its flow-on economic impacts – with the ASX dropping by 11.5% between February and March – consumers are evidently taking a more cautious approach, which is a concern for Australian retailers.

The index noted there are signs that “consumers are less inclined to spend”. The ‘time to buy a major household item’ sub-index also reached a five-year low, falling by 4.3% to 111.4. In addition to concerns about the economy, this could partly be due to an avoidance of public places.

The Unemployment Expectations Index jumped up 8.5% to 146.1 (higher readings indicate more consumers expect unemployment to rise).

However, consumers appear to be more concerned about the near-term outlook than the long-term ramifications of COVID-19: the ‘economy, next 12 months’ sub-index recorded the largest drop of all the categories, at -12.8%. By comparison, the ‘economy, next 5 years’ sub-index only fell by 1.3%.

Bucking the downward trend was a sharp 20% rebound in sentiment among respondents from regional NSW. This is likely due to bushfire aid efforts and increased rainfall as communities recover from the harsh bushfire season and severe drought.

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