The Rudd Government GFC stimulus package of 2009, which saw a $950 sweetener land in the bank accounts of Aussie taxpayers, is but a distant memory as the Gillard Government's pre-Christmas economic cutbacks start to resonate with the Aussie public: $400 chopped off the baby bonus, tough love for living-away-from-home workers and Public Service savings are just some of the measures proposed to get the country's bank account back in the black come 2012-13.
Austerity is the word of the moment as governments strive to become fiscally responsible and avert the disastrous consequences seen in Greece and Italy and the structural issues emanating from America which spurred on the GFC.
But while cautious citizens have tightened their belts this year to weather the brewing storm blowing in from abroad, retailers have launched a series of strategic pre-Christmas "Shopcupy" campaigns to encourage shoppers to their doors and online stores while reminding us all that retail is a driver of economic growth and employment.
Tonight Vogue Australia is exercising its powers of persuasion via its Online Shopping Night with the aim of tapping into the masthead's legion of loyal fashion followers. Vogue has recruited more than 80 brands and shopping sites while a 'media hub' consisting of Team Vogue Australia and designers including Akira Isogawa, Leona Edmiston and Josh Goot will build momentum via tweeting and content creation at Vogue.com.au.
Meanwhile, in a joint effort between Commercial Radio Australia and the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA), an on-air campaign has been launched across 261 radio stations to raise awareness of the importance of Australia’s retailers and to help promote the retail sector.
"Retail employs over 1.2m Australians through some 140,000 retail businesses," said Osmond. "It is the backbone of communities across the country and provides the first jobs for many young jobseekers. We are very pleased to be working with the commercial radio networks and through their local stations, thank our shoppers for supporting Aussie businesses.”
In the States, spending on the Black Friday weekend was reportedly up significantly on last year with online sales were up 39.3% on Thanksgiving Day alone. The Wall Street Journal reports that Cyber Monday sales hit $1.25 billion in the U.S. as consumers tore themselves away from the dinner table to consume themselves with discounted shopping from their computers.
"Just like Thanksgiving weekend shopping is a ritual in America, when people go with their families to look for deals, as soon as they go to the office on Monday they look online," Sucharita Mulpuru, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research told The New York Times. "It’s almost ceremonial."
Cyber Monday (which has evolved into 'Cyber Week') "is increasing in importance, with virtually all retailers getting involved and more consumers knowing it for big discounts," said comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman. "And we are seeing some strength in retail spending as savings rates have gone up, giving consumers more confidence about spending during their holiday season."
It's much the same story closer to home. "The difference between this Christmas and last Christmas is that we’ve had a decrease in interest rates," said Australian National Retailers Association CEO Margy Osmond, who anticipates Aussies will spend nearly $25 billion over the next four weeks.
"Last Christmas the RBA put rates up just before Christmas and it killed it stone dead. This year I think people are feeling a little more comfortable. There’s not any doubt that another interest rate cut will be right up the top of the Santa list of just about every retailer in the country."
But like the Westpac-Melbourne Institute, which predicts 34 per cent of consumers will spend less this year, 54 per cent will budget the same amount for Christmas spending this year as last and just 11.5 per cent will increase their budget, Gerry Harvey isn't so optimistic that Australians will go silly with spending this season. "There's no sign out there in the community that we're going to have this wonderful Christmas. I don't see it.''
While Harvey Norman opened its online retail store last week and took in $50,000 in its first night, Harvey has concerns about sustaining Australians 1.2 million strong retail workforce in light of escalating online competition. Speaking to The Australian, he suggested that sustaining his business might mean moving his online presence offshore.
It has not been an easy year for Aussie retailers facing pressures from a globalised internet, a strong dollar and a dynamic retail landscape they had failed to truly anticipate. As Nancy Georges, 'The Retail Miss Fix It' writes in a My Business article titled 'Dear retailers, it's not me, it's you!':
"Consumers are miles ahead of retailers, they are using the technology, sharing information with their friends, connecting with their favourite stores and brands and singing the praises of their favourites! The important thing is for retailers to know where their customer is and be there. Once they are there, they need to be relevant and engaging. When they master being relevant and engaging, they need to be strategic and sales-focused. So don’t wallow and feel sorry for yourself, embrace the new world and find your place in it!"
But perhaps the last word should go to the Grinch, who, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? "What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
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Satchelnomics: The new sensibility of shopping
Posted by Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) at Wednesday, November 30, 2011