SYDNEY: Shoppers in Australia are showing a range of different behaviours as the country begins to recover from the effects of the global financial crisis.

Grey partnered with Sweeney Research to survey 998 people, in order to establish their current perceptions and purchase intentions.

The number of consumers who were anxious about the economic climate stood at just 25%, compared with the total of 36% recorded in the same study published last year.

Despite this positive trend, and greater optimism among respondents about their personal financial circumstances, habits also appeared to have changed in a variety of ways.

Some 85% of the panel stated they were seeking to reduce their debts, and a further 76% expressed a preference for saving more money. 

Elsewhere, 35% of participants were currently living "week to week", a contraction from 41% measured against the previous report. 

However, women in the 45–56 age range were found to be more negative than before, as the proportion who agreed they were "very satisfied" decreased from 45% to 31% in the same timeframe.

"This is the least satisfied of any group in Australia and they are also the biggest shoppers," Paul Gardner, chairman of Grey Australia, said.

More specifically, 40% of this demographic were buying more own-label products, and 62% regarded these offerings as being of at least a similar quality to national brands.

Across all of the contributors to the poll, nearly half argued that their favourite brands were now harder to find, and 41% thought the amount of choice available in supermarkets has declined.

The increasing number of store brands on shelves was one major factor behind this change, according to Gardner.

Looking at the broader situation, he added that while periods of economic stress typically lead to shifts in popular preferences, the current recession appeared to have certain distinctive characteristics.

"The difference is that in the past frugality has comes with a fear of unemployment. Yet this time people are not worried about losing their jobs," he said.

Gardner also warned that the scale of the promotional and discounting activity instituted by manufacturers and retailers in the downturn had encouraged a focus on price among consumers.

He also predicted there would be a major uptick in brand advertising this year as brand owners endeavoured to re-engage with shoppers.

"They need to go back and justify why they are charging," said Gardner.

Data sourced from Smart Company; additional content by Warc staff