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Cashed up shoppers to call the shots

Reported by AAP
Friday, March 25, 2011
Topics in this article:
David Jones,Jb Hi-Fi
World's kookiest billionairesBillionaires and their eccentric and outlandish publicity stunts.

Cashed up Australians are renowned for hitting the shops as soon as their bank balance looks healthy, but now it looks like the game has changed.

All of a sudden, planning for tomorrow is back in vogue, with the latest figures showing Australians are adopting a squirrel-like mentality to secure their financial future.

You'd have to go back to the mid-eighties to find a time when we were saving more.

While it's easy to forget that less than a decade ago we were giving our credit cards the biggest workout in history, many people are still nursing a financial hangover from all the cars, clothes, furniture and flat screen televisions purchased.

Without a second thought, families were dipping into their mortgages to fund their next household acquisition.

But that's all behind us.

As the country settles in for the largest commodities boom in more than a century, the million dollar shopper question is: When are we going to start spending again?

Wouldn't the big retailers like to know.

Their most recent half yearly results have been less than impressive, prompting many store owners to adopt a strategy of sitting tight until conditions improve.

Several company heads have described the climate of heavy discounting as "competitive", "volatile and "aggressive".

Even with low prices, a tight national labour market and burgeoning pay packets, Australians are still holding on to their cash or using it to pay down debt.

The average worker is now putting away one in every 10 dollars of disposable income, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia's half yearly Financial Stability Review, released on Thursday.

At some stage, people will get sick of loading up their mortgages and choose to indulge in some good old material satisfaction.

So you'd think the big retailers would be positioning themselves for the spoils by setting up quality online shopping businesses.

While Myer, David Jones and JB Hi-Fi have online shopping systems, they remain reluctant to fork out for decent websites and systems which allow them to target mobile phone shoppers.

Without this technology, they have little hope of becoming multi-channel retailers who can cash in on the youth market.

On Wednesday, upmarket department store David Jones blamed everything from bad weather to unrest in Libya for its average sales record, while admitting that its new website is not up to global standards.

It says it plans to learn from the mistakes of other online retailers before upgrading its new website.

Harvey Norman, meanwhile, has made little effort to upgrade its site, while Myer recently launched its MyFind website, offering a limited selection of goods from Hong Kong.

Time is running out for them to get their act together.

At some stage a dominant local player will emerge and the others will be left behind.

There's no doubt that recent trading conditions have been tough.

Weak consumer sentiment, natural disasters, higher interest rates and a high Australian dollar haven't helped.

And it's true that online retailing and mobile device purchases still make up a small slice of the market, around three to five per cent, but early indications show the sector is poised to grow strongly.

Anyone selling clothing, books, gifts, music and electronic goods has to acknowledge shoppers are experiencing an online awakening - and they're never coming back.

They're not just buying a few books from the US or UK anymore, they're actively comparing prices on their mobiles as they browse through stores.

As the nation's biggest private sector employer, with more than 1.2 million employees, retailers risk punishing their shareholders and staff for underinvestment.

The financial crisis reminded people they don't have to spend every cent that comes into their bank account and they now have an overwhelming choice of where they can get the next best deal.

This new "empowered shopper" as eBay vice-president Deborah Sharkey likes to call it, is going to be calling the shots in the years to come.

25/10/2014 16:34Sydney, Australia. 25 October,2014
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