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Kiwis put off major purchases over COVID-19 financial stress

Less than half of New Zealanders are confident in their own financial stability through the COVID-19 crisis, according to new research. 

In response to concerns of the pandemic, Kiwis will put off major purchases, including personal devices and computers.

The two-stage study, commissioned by New Zealand research firm Penrose Data, compared consumer attitudes before and after the first week of Level 4 lockdown, and found only 45% of Kiwis are confident in their financial stability.

The survey found more than 90% of consumers will put off making at least one major purchase due to COVID-19. This figure is highest for recreation/sports products or computers (34%), vehicles or property (33%), appliances (32%) and furniture (29%). Only a tenth (9%) of Kiwis say it won't impact their major purchases.

Despite the financial impact, consumer confidence in the Government's response to COVID-19 has increased significantly following the first week of the lockdown with seven in 10 (70%) believing the response has been effective so far. 

Geoff Walmsley, CEO of Penrose Data, who is currently caught up in his fourth week of lockdown in the Netherlands, saw a number of parallels between the two markets and initiated the study to support Kiwi businesses.

Walmsley says the company specialises in providing research insights for Kiwi FMCG exporters but recognises it is often the SMEs who are most in need of information at this time.

The Netherlands is currently in its fourth week of nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 crisis - where the curve is just starting to flatten off. 

"The lead time ahead of the New Zealand market gave us a better understanding of the challenges that would be faced for consumers and companies alike and allowed us to measure attitudinal shifts as the Level 4 changes were implemented," says Walmsley.

"We believe that access to timely information can help businesses better navigate the challenges ahead and we will be providing weekly insights throughout the lockdown period," he says.

Walmsley says despite the dip in consumer confidence locally, key export markets such as China have reopened and demand for New Zealand products will support economic recovery.

The research also found that Kiwis had improved access to basic food after the lockdown - particularly for items like bread with more than a third (35%) of respondents having trouble purchasing it, compared to just a fifth (20%) after the lockdown began. 

Similarly, one in three (35%) Kiwis had limited access to cleaning products before the lockdown with this dropping to a quarter (24%) at the end of the first week. Access to fruit and vegetables declined however with a seventh of those surveyed encountering restrictions of these goods.

Those who reported struggling with access to basic staples were more likely to have a negative view of the Governments response to the crisis.

More than 1000 New Zealanders were surveyed using a two-stage online survey methodology which compared consumer attitudes prior to the lockdown (March 21) and after the completion of the first week (March 27).