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Change, Challenge and Choice – a NZ consumer lifestyles study

Dr Leah Watkins, Otago Business SchoolData from a long-term University of Otago Business School research project is providing invaluable information on New Zealand lifestyles.

The comprehensive longitudinal study has been surveying a cross-section of New Zealanders since 1979 on a wide range of consumption and lifestyle issues, including food and drink, holidays, transportation, debt, and social and political attitudes.

Lead researcher Leah Watkins said it’s not until you compare lifestyle research data across decades that you clearly see what is important to us and what makes us New Zealanders. It’s also a way of offering objective information to monitor what has changed, and what are now the current concerns.

The unique dataset has provided very useful insights into trends and changes in lifestyle and contemporary consumer behaviour for planners. Industries such as transport and food producers therefore have a clear picture of future needs; it also offers potential commercial opportunities to explore. The latest report is available to anyone interested in making use of it.

Current findings

The big change from the latest survey conducted in late 2013 by the Consumer Research Group in the University’s Department of Marketing, is that New Zealanders are more frugal and have a more sustainable outlook. This is not surprising, given the economic downturn that occurred between this survey and the previous study in 2005, but trends include conscious decisions to avoid credit card debt, more DIY activities, and more consciousness on price and quality.

However, significantly less people thought their family was better off financially than a year ago.

New Zealanders were less satisfied with their personal wellbeing and a lower satisfaction with life as a whole compared to the previous survey.

They are concerned about the nutritional information available on food, they dine out more, and they are worried about their waistline and avoid high cholesterol products. However many New Zealanders can be classified as heavy drinkers.

There is definite and consistent change in attitude towards waste and the environment, with almost half concerned the government was not taking a more positive and constructive role in protecting the environment.

There is also significant change in attitudes towards business, with more views that there should be greater emphasis on businesses social and environmental responsibilities rather than maximising profits.

New Zealanders spend more time than ever on-line, for news, entertainment and shopping.

This survey has identified a growing number of “Progressive” New Zealanders who are characterised as well-educated, liberal, middle-aged females with strong ethical opinions. They are community orientated, less materialistic and engage in volunteer and charity work.

Participants in the survey were categorised into seven lifestyle segments:

  • Progressives
  • Disengaged
  • Young Pleasure-Seekers
  • New Greens
  • Success-Drive Extroverts
  • Quiet Lifers
  • Traditional Family Values

You can download full report or email Dr Leah Watkins for a hard copy.

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