Consumer Intelligence

Consumer Intelligence

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The consumer financial mood is gauged on the basis of several proprietary measures from tracking surveys conducted by foreseechange since 2003.  These include willingness to spend, expectations about interest rates, house prices, the economy, and employment.  These have proven abilities as leading indicators of consumer spending and saving; and the unemployment rate.

The most recent update, in June 2019, indicates that willingness to spend is relatively high alhough of course income growth is dismal.  The cost of living is still the highest concern about the foreseeable future.  As in November 2018, there is a higher expectation of a serious slowdown in the economy than in the previous few years. 


Not all Australians prefer lower interest rates.  Some prefer higher rates and some prefer no change.  This report is based on consumer survey tracking data and shows how interest rate preferences vary over time and by demographic.  It shows that interest rates have lost their power to influence aggregate consumer spending growth in this very low interest rate environment.  It also points to another way to boost consumer spending growth.


In his 2004 book “The Wisdom of Crowds”, James Surowiecki makes an interesting case that if you want to make a correct decision then large numbers of ordinary people can provide better advice than a small number of experts.  We have been researching this concept since 2005 and find that it is a potentially useful technique - but that applying it is rather more complex than suggested by Surowiecki.

We prefer the term "the wisdom of the masses" rather than crowds because the latter does not suggest sufficient diversity.

Consumer expectations have been found to be valuable for forecasting and predicting behaviour.  This includes economic and political outcomes.

The November 2020 survey indicates that economic fear has declined somewhat, although it is still elevated compared with the long-term average.  Expectations about climate change have also moderated following good rains in 2020.

The report also covers expectations about prices (automotive fuel and electricity); fertility; disease; vehicle ownership; and terrorism.


Provides analysis of nine demand indicators for Australia's mainland states.  Two of these indicators, willingness and ability to spend, are only available from foreseechange.  Also included are composite ranking and a volatility indicator.


House prices are an important economic variable.  They are a major component of household wealth, a significant driver of consumer spending, and a hurdle for prospective first home buyers.  This report is based on a unique leading indicator of Australian house price inflation.


Young adults have changed their financial priorities and behavious substantially since the global financial crisis and especially since 2010.  This has been bad for many retailers and their suppliers and for other industries such as health insurance.  This report details the changes, why they have occurred, and their implications.


2017 is the year of the perfect storm for Australian retailers.  Consumer spending growth was already weak due to poor employment growth and the lowest hourly wage growth on record.  Now motor fuel and electricity prices are rising again, sucking the discretionary spending power of consumers dry.  It is even worse for households with mortgages as interest rates are creeping up even though the Reserve Bank of Australia has official interest rates on hold.  Later in 2017, Amazon will launch in Australia.  What can Australian consumer marketers do?  It is time to engage a long-ignored demographic.


A set of 27 charts with commentary relevant to current and future trends in consumer spending in Australia.  Updated monthly.  Most recent update 15 May 2020.  There is now a supplement containing an additional set of charts with commentary focused on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandmic and shutdown.


Older consumers are more numerous than they were a decade ago and they spend more money.  This means that consumer marketers may be missing big opportunities.  In a growth challenged consumer spending environmemnt in Australia, opportunities should not be missed.  This report is based on the 2015/16 household expenditure survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  Other data analysed includes proprietary foreseechange data on willingness to spend.


Australia's population growth rate was slowing even before COVID-19 arrived.  Now, with lower net migration and possibly an increase in deaths, the population growth rate could slow significantly.  Our scenarios show the sensitivity to a range of assumptions concerning these factors.


The drivers of consumer spending in Australia are identified and quantified.  The outlook for 2018, along with some scenarios, are included in this report.


We don't all believe that the climate is changing and that human activity is causing climate change.  This report analyses several different sets of data, collected over the past decade, to identify what factors influence variations in belief.  Also analysed is survey data concerning the relative importance of climate change.  The report concludes that there is not sufficient conviction amongst the general public to force politicians to take decisive action to mitigate climate change.  There is a need to change strategy and relevant suggestions are put forward. 


As we enter a new decade indicators point to sluggish consumer spending and economic growth.  Population growth may be slowing; consumers have become more pessimistic about the economy and business sentiment is subdued.

There are, however, some positive notes: rising house prices; and record-high consumer willingness to spend.  The former is good for new vehicle sales and the latter provides an opportunity for the government to significantly boost consumer spending via fiscal stimulus.

In addition, there are growth opportunities for some products and in some segments of the population.  Several such opportunities are identified in the report.


Future expectations influence decisions made today.  When making purchasing and investment decisions our choices can have an impact on our future.  So too with ballot box decisions.  When we buy a house or use social media our choices have future implications for us and the community.

Future concerns have been researched by foreseechange occasionally since 2002.  The relative levels of future concern about issues has varied significantly over this period.

This November 2020 update comes at an important time, as Australia slowly emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy recovers.  A federal election is due in 18 months, but could be called earlier.  Politicians and business decision makers need to ensure they are aware of the relative level of concern about social, economic, and environmental future concerns.


Retail sales growth scenarios for the next 18 months.  Identification and analysis of the key economic drivers, the impact of the imminent federal election, consumer spending sentiment, opportunity and threat.

The Coalition is very likely to lose the 2019 federal election, which will probably be held in May. Three separate predictive methods all show a Labor win. Is this a repeat of 2007 when Labor won despite a strong economy? Will climate change be the deciding factor? A detailed analysis is contained in my report, along with an assessment of the top 10 issues that will be in the minds of voters.

As 2018 progressed, new vehicle sales slumped. Is this the start of Peak Car or is it a perfect storm? Our report analyses the causes of the slump.


Identifies the key drivers of spending on food (total of supermarkets, specialy food, and liquor).  Provides scenarios for growth in the year ahead.


This report shows that climate change is starting to influence our choices about where we live.  This is a statistically significant trend for Tasmania, which may be replicated in other locations. 


The level of belief in imminent climate change is back to the level it was in 2007, the last time Labor won government from the Coalition.  The level of belief, and support for action, is analysed over time, by demographic, and by location including selected federal electorates.  The implications for the election and for communications are discussed.  The level of support for particular actions is analysed.


The willingness to spend of young adults (age 18 to 29) has been at a record low since late 2016, but improved in mid-2019.  Their willingness to spend is lower than for older adults.  Their highest priority is saving, followed by loan repayment.

This change in behaviour has been damaging for those consumer marketing organisations that disproportionally target young adults.

Why has this happened and is there any improvement in sight?


Australia's economic growth rate has slumped, largely driven by slowing household consumption growth.  Are the current and planned monetary and fiscal policies up to the job of significantly lifting consumer spending growth?  The answer is no, because there is no stimulus for those consumers most willing to spend. 


Income tax cuts in 2019-20 will give a much needed boost to Australia's household disposable income.  But will consumers spend all the extra money and will the impact be enough to lift consumer spending out of its funk? 


Apparent consumption of alcohol in Australia has declined in per capita terms since 1978 and is still falling.  Our analysis of the data has identified the main drivers of this decline.  These are both demographic and economic factors.

Our model projects that per capita consumption will continue to decline, but that total alcohol consumption is likely to grow slowly.  Projections extend to 2030.

The per capita decline in consumption may seem like a good health outcome, but it is not actually clear that we are drinking less.  The demographic and economic factors may be confusing us.


Parts of Australia are in severe drought.  This is costly to the agriculture industry and the federal government is providing billions of dollars in assistance.  This drought is primarily caused by very low rainfall, but is made more severe by extremely high summer temperatures.  This report analyses to what extent the general public expect drought to continue and how concerned they are about adequate water supply.


Consumer spending growth has collapsed in Australia, despite recent attempts at monetary and fiscal stimulus.  Retail spending volume per capita is in recession, to a similar degree as during the global financial crisis.  This report analyses the symptoms, causes, and provides a remedy.  Based on unique proprietary tracking of consumer willingness to spend by demographic, a strategy is proposed that will boost spending. 


Consumer economic pessimism has increased in Australia as at late 2019, to the highest level since the Global Financial Crisis.  Why?  How can sentiment be turned around?  Our analysis has some surprising answers.


Low fossil fuel consumption vehicle sales are growing strongly, despite weak new vehicle sales overall.  This momentum is expected to continue given community concerns about climate change and the cost of living.  This report provides three scenarios for sales to 2030.


The recent increase in the number of first home buyers in Australia is set to continue into 2021.


What does 2021 hold for Australia?  We have consulted the Wisdom of the Masses to find out.

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