Easing social distancing and travel restrictions is only one part of the story for Australia’s recovery. As the old adage goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Households and consumers may be far more cautious about getting out and about than first thought.
More than half of Australia expects a second wave of the coronavirus to impact the country between now and November, with more than 70 per cent saying they will be more cautious than otherwise about returning to normal patterns of behaviour when restrictions are eased.
It means businesses modelling a return to full capacity, or a significant bounce to BAU by the fourth quarter of this year may put themselves at risk of misguided optimism. In its Future Consumer Index survey of 1000 people completed in the four days to 1 May, EY found that respondents expect it will be at least months but possibly years before they are comfortable going to bars and pubs, the movie theatre, a fitness club, outdoor sporting event, or concert.
More will be comfortable returning to restaurants faster than other activities, although plane travel may be off the cards for longer, with 85 per cent saying they’d feel uncomfortable flying.
EY Oceania Consumer Products and Retail Leader Lisa Nijssen-Smith, who also works with a number of large arts organisations, says businesses need to be wary of assuming that people will return quickly to the same patterns of behaviour.
"There is a sense that everything will rebound and come back to normal a lot quicker than what this data is telling us,” she says. “Businesses need to be really mindful when they’re modelling consumer behaviour in their projections that it may take a while before people will be comfortable shopping next to each other, or sitting next to each other for extended periods of time in theatres or concert halls.”