Friday, 10 September 2021

One silver lining to come from the pandemic may be how much more mindful we are about money, a new University of Otago report reveals.

Associate Professor Leah Watkins image
Associate Professor Leah Watkins.

The latest New Zealand Consumer Lifestyles Report surveyed 1640 people in late 2020 with the aim of providing insights into the lifestyles, consumption patterns and choices, and behavioural trends of New Zealanders.

It is the seventh major survey of its type to come out of Otago's Consumer Research Group in the Department of Marketing, with this version including a new focus on COVID-19, sustainable consumption behaviour, and happiness and well-being.

Many long-standing consumer habits – more money spent on services, greater digital adoption and more time and money spent out of the home – have been interrupted, accelerated or reversed due to the pandemic. This data, collected six months out of the first nationwide lockdown, may indicate which of those changes will stick.

Lead author Associate Professor Leah Watkin was most surprised about how 57 per cent of respondents had become more mindful of their spending since Lockdown 2020.

The results also show 43 per cent reduced their consumer spending, 52 per cent started to shop locally, and 42 per cent shopped online more.

“They are more committed to shopping locally and have also engaged in brand switching behaviours, such as trying new brands (33 per cent), less expensive brands (38 per cent) and less luxury brands (41 per cent),” she says.

The only category to increase was groceries, which aligns with 54 per cent of people reporting they have increased their home cooking.

“Overall, people have reduced their discretionary consumer spending on restaurants, outside entertainment and travel, which has gone into savings and also into more 'at home' spending on food and entertainment.”

Not so surprising, was the number of respondents who had re-assessed methods of accessing things like health advice, such as telemedicine (16 per cent), meal kits (16 per cent), and home fitness (23 per cent).

“It is likely this most recent lockdown will have seen consumers re-evaluate their consumer spending again, and given the possibility of on-going lockdowns, it is more likely that new or changed behaviours will become new habits,” Associate Professor Watkins says.

Decreased consumer spending has led to changes in debt and savings behaviour with 26 per cent of consumers saying they have reduced debt, 35 per cent increased saving, and 24 per cent increased investing.

Associate Professor Watkins is optimistic for the continued recovery of consumer spending, albeit influenced by new habits adopted during the pandemic.

“In terms of economic recovery, we saw consumer spending return quickly post 2020 lockdown and it is likely we will see the same this time as consumers regain access to consumption goods that have been limited and use the savings they have accumulated.”

Report details:

Challenge, Constraint and Commitment to Change: A New Zealand Consumer Lifestyles Study
Associate Professor Leah Watkins, Professor Robert Aitken, Associate Professor Kirsten Robertson, Professor Maree Thyne, Dr John Williams, and Rebekah van Kerkhof

Lifestyles Research Group

For more information, contact:

Associate Professor Leah Watkins
Department of Marketing
University of Otago

Ellie Rowley
Communications Adviser
External Engagement Division
University of Otago
Tel +64 3 479 8200
Mob +64 21 278 8200

Find an Otago Expert

Use our Media Expertise Database to find an Otago researcher for media comment.

EQUIS logo AACSB logo AAPBS logo Global Business School Network logoFair Trade Certified PIM logo QS Stars logo.World Leisure Organisation logo

Back to top