23 May 2024
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Signs point to boom, baby, boom!

Peter Switzer
17 February 2022

The media has a habit of focussing on the negative and I can be hard on those of my colleagues who force the pessimism play too easily. We in the media have a big impact on both consumer and business confidence and so three cheers for the SMH headline today that reads: 'High foot traffic in malls helps bring pandemic losses to heel.'

I must admit I’d prefer 'Shoppers prove boom is coming' or something more dramatic but I’m ‘little’ more optimistic than most economists and media people.

And this story makes me even more positive as it hones in on the reporting of listed company Vicinity Centres (VCX), which owns the likes of Chatswood Chase in Sydney and Chadstone in Melbourne, so it has a good handle on what the consumer is doing, feeling and thinking about spending money.

“Confident shoppers with a capacity and willingness to spend more than they did before the pandemic are underpinning a resurgence in sales and foot traffic at Australia’s largest shopping malls,” writes the SMH’s Simon Johanson.

He pointed out that a huge $394 million loss in the half-year ending 2020 has turned into a $650.2 million profit in the six months to December in 2021. The return of shoppers explains the great result and the company’s stock price rose a big 11.1% to $1.86 yesterday, but this was a $2.63 stock before the pandemic.

Vicinity Centres (VCX)

‘‘In NSW and Victoria, retail sales rebounded strongly when restrictions eased in October 2021,’’ VCX’s CEO Grant Kelley told the SMH and “financial analysts described the result as a ‘big beat above consensus’’’.

But this isn’t the only good economic news I’m seeing that’s screaming that we’re in for a huge rebound, provided no more Omicron-like challenges beset us this year.

Check these latest readings out:

1. The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index rose by 3.3%, the biggest lift in 10 months, to 103.2 points.

2. The NAB Business Confidence number rose strongly in January to 3.5, after a -12 reading in December. You can blame Omicron for that. The 15.5 point rise was the fourth biggest rise on record.

3. The National Skills Commission’s Internet Vacancy Index (IVI) rose by 4.4% in January (or 10,918 available positions) to a 13-year high of 259,027 available positions. Recruitment activity is up 40.8% over the year to January.

4. Job vacancies are just below record highs across regional Australia at 64,073 available positions in January.

5. Dwelling approvals rose by 8.2% in December (the biggest lift in 9 months) to 17,698 units.

And these good numbers on the economy are coming in months where Omicron is still putting restrictions on us, so imagine when workers no longer choose to work from home and we can flock into pubs, cafes and planes again because we’re less spooked about this damn Coronavirus in its many forms.

It will be boom baby boom, as I’ve said before, but we just have to hope that there are no new variants out there to turn this measurable positivity into negativity.

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