Coronavirus: More than half of New Zealanders insecure about their financial stability during COVID-19 crisis

The majority of New Zealanders are supportive of the Government's response to the COVID-19 crisis - yet more than half are feeling insecure about their financial futures, according to new research.

A two-stage study, commissioned by local research firm Penrose Data, compared consumer attitudes before and after the first week of New Zealand's Alert Level 4 lockdown, implemented nationwide at 11:59pm on March 25.

Penrose Data CEO Geoff Walmsley, who is based in the Netherlands, is in the fourth week of the country's lockdown. 

“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, allowing us to measure shifts in attitude as the Level 4 changes were implemented," Walmsley explained to The AM Show on Wednesday morning. 

"On one hand, a lot of Kiwis are really worried about their own personal situations... they're worried about their financial future essentially, which isn't surprising."

The research found 55 percent of Kiwis are lacking confidence in their financial stability amid the crisis, while 45 percent were more certain of their security. The figures have remained constant prior to and during the lockdown.

More than 90 percent of New Zealand consumers will delay making at least one major purchase due to COVID-19. For computers and recreational or sports-related products, the figure is highest at 34 percent. Thirty-three percent will put off purchasing vehicles or property, 32 percent will delay buying appliances and 29 percent for furniture. 

Only 9 percent of New Zealanders say the crisis won't impact their spending on major purchases.

"Because of the financial uncertainty, people are preparing to tighten their belts. The purpose of our research is to show, especially for smaller businesses in New Zealand, when that tide turns... when are Kiwis going to feel confident to go out and make large purchases again," Walmsley said.

Geoff Walmsley.
Geoff Walmsley. Photo credit: Supplied

Kiwis are confident in the Govt's response

The data found New Zealand consumers became increasingly optimistic that the COVID-19 emergency would improve following the lockdown's implementation, with positivity rising from 14 percent to 32 percent.

Despite the financial impact on New Zealanders, 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 percent) believing the response has been effective so far. 

"What did surprise me is there's a huge positivity among New Zealanders. They're really confident, especially since the lockdown has been in place, that things will improve over the next couple of weeks," Walmsley said.

"They're pretty sure the steps taken by the Government to enforce the lockdown will have a positive effect."

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 New Zealand's economic recovery.

The research also found the lockdown improved access to basic food. More than a third (35 percent) of respondents initially had trouble purchasing bread, compared to just a fifth (20 percent) after lockdown began. Access to fruit and vegetables declined however, with a seventh of those surveyed encountering limited supplies.

Those who had struggled to access basic staples were more likely to have a negative view of the Government’s response to the crisis.