The Little Spoon Co
Consumer Insights: Community spirit sways buying habits
Jul 2, 2024

The re-localisation of shopping during the pandemic has resulted in lasting behavioural change among consumers, Australian researchers have found.


Some 90 per cent of Australians are visiting a local business to buy goods or services at least weekly, according to a survey of more than 2000 shoppers conducted by McCrindle Research in the first quarter of 2024. Over three quarters of QIC customers interviewed said they purchase from operators located within 10 minutes’ drive of their home more than twice weekly, including over a quarter for whom this as at least a daily habit.

The study, which concludes QIC’s six-part Consumer Insights series, also found that the majority (56 per cent) of Australians are spending ‘significantly’ or ‘somewhat’ more time in their local area as a rule than three years ago (discounting the sporadic lockdowns of early 2021). While the shift to remote and hybrid work models is inevitably a contributor to this localism, the data also suggests that neighbourhood pride swells among millennials in response to parenthood and the traditional root-laying stage of life. Indeed, Generation Y shoppers emerge from the recent survey as the cohort most likely to participate in community events and to support local businesses, with dual- and single- parent families having upped the time they spend close to home more than non-parent households.

Hometown advantage

In a webinar unpacking the results (watch below), Research Principal Mark McCrindle explained: “One in three Australians say they feel ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ connected to their community… and there’s an intentionality around that. The number-one [way in which they are connecting] is through retail, followed by use of local amenity, and then attending local events is a big one as well.”

It follows that 87 per cent of respondents classified their local shopping centre as a ‘pillar of the local community’. In the six months to February, over half of QIC customers surveyed had made use of civic amenities like those adjoining Eastland and Robina, such as playgrounds, libraries and public art installations.

McCrindle continued: “Town centres have such an important role to play in celebrating local culture and shopping centres are naturally evolving to fulfill that role, whether it be expanding the retail offering and nighttime economy or clustering whole-of-life services and mixed usages that help people spend more time in their local area.”

QIC Head of Research and Insights Chris Grant added that the development approach on greenfield projects such as Merrifield City is rooted in a mission to foster community connection through engaging spaces, and in turn gaining a deeper understanding of customer motivations. “It’s important to be looking beyond your four walls – beyond your next product launch or store opening – at the needs of the community and how to best serve them,” he said.

Access to whole-of-life services (such as banking, allied health, beauty salons) proved to be of high or extreme importance to more than 70 per cent of Australians when deciding where exactly to shop locally, while 82 per cent cited quality and variety of stores as crucial.

Moreover, about two-thirds of respondents identified personal interaction with retail staff as a primary benefit of shopping locally. Grant and McCrindle agreed the study results suggest that consumers of all ages continue to appreciate real-world recognition from store owners, servers and cashiers as a signifier of belonging and camaraderie.

To learn more about the opportunities arising from Australian consumers’ propensity to shop local, watch Mark McCrindle in discussion with Rachel Logan below.

Download a PDF summary of the localisation study findings here and, if you missed it, catch up on earlier instalments of QIC's Consumer Insights, the research series designed to help retail partners anticipate shifts in shopper needs, beliefs and behaviours.