Getting the shopping 'hit' differently

Australian shoppers are tipped to spend $5 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Australian shoppers are tipped to spend $5 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Give people an experience instead of a thing - a short trip or a day spa - to be a future-thinking shopper.

"You can still spend, you can still make someone really happy, you can still let someone know how much you love them by how much you've spent," marketing and advertising guru Andrew Hughes told AAP.

"But at the same time, it's something that won't have as much impact on the environment or our sustainability."

The frenzy of consumption from Australian shoppers this weekend may be at odds with a sustainable economy but that won't stop them spending a forecast $5 billion from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

"Question it, give people an experience instead," Australian National University-based Dr Hughes said on Friday.

Chief economist Richard Denniss at independent think tank The Australia Institute said people didn't need to buy fast fashion or disposable furniture.

"Imagine all the services that can give people a thrill rather than the unsustainable stuff," he said.

"Things like Black Friday, Mad Mondays, Boxing Day sales, any and all of that is all about tapping into the very transient, temporary thrill that people get when they purchase something."

Westpac's latest Card Tracker Index shows spending was high even before the four-day spree.

The latest reading means annual growth in card activity is running nearly 10 percentage points above its pre-COVID-19 pace, senior economist Matthew Hassan said.

He said there had been a steady shift towards services, and a slight decline for discretionary goods.

"The finer detail shows this goods-to-services shift is being driven by NSW and Victoria, consistent with reopening."

Dr Hughes said part of the surge in retail activity is the need for belonging and community that some find in shopping malls, but people also have a lot of cash.

Rising house values are making people feel more confident about the future, and households believe the worst of the pandemic has passed.

"Now, people are just going, 'OK it's time to spend and spending makes me feel good'," he said.

Shoppers have also adjusted to supply chain problems and panic buying causing shortages.

Although toilet paper is back on the shelves, there is now a global shortage of wooden pallets.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Tanya Barden said the pallet shortage was affecting local manufacturers who were sometimes prevented from shipping out finished stock.

"The best approach is for consumers to make an early start on Christmas shopping," she said.

The current frenzy comes several weeks after "Single's Day" or "11/11", a big day on the Chinese shopping calendar on November 11.

"All of these 'days' are manufactured of course," Dr Hughes said.

"Our fear is not of missing out, our fear is upsetting people if we don't get them the right thing, and it's leading to an 'arms race' - spending more and more every year to make people happy."

Dr Denniss said people didn't behave like this 20 years ago.

"We're the first people in human history to behave like this - our parents didn't behave like this, our grandparents didn't live like this," he said.

"To tell ourselves that this is unavoidable and normal is to ignore how the vast proportion of the world's population currently lives."

Australian Associated Press