The times, they are a-changin’ – thanks to COVID-19. Australian lifestyles are expected to be irrevocably altered as we recover from the pandemic and settle in to the “new normal”. With the evolution come opportunities for SMEs.


It’s life – but not as we knew it


A lot is being said about the “new normal” and what that means for Australians. Some of the measures adopted to curtail the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way we live.


From physical distancing to self-isolation, #stayathome to working from home (WFH), COVID-19 brought about rapid changes to the way we go about our daily lives. And as the legacy lives on, opportunities are arising for SMEs to tap into the lifestyle changes.


Certain retail sectors were big winners during the restrictions. The way we purchase groceries and other household essentials has evolved. Online stores and delivery services have flourished and SMEs in retail can take advantage to consolidate, diversify and profit from the swing away from shopfronts by tapping into the online shopping surge and the latest consumer trends (more people are cooking and indulging in treats, buying books and DVDs, participating in more hobbies and projects around the home etc.).


According to the ABS, 58% of Australians reported spending more time in front of their television, computer, phone, or other device during the restrictions. Coupled with more people planning to permanently work from home (in May, 46% were WFH and many will not return to workplaces as employers realise the benefits of remote and flexible working), smart homes are hot tickets. This presents fresh opportunities for IT specialists, architects/designers, builders and trades like electricians, carpenters and even plumbers to design, build and retrofit smart homes. Landlords who offer smart rentals (and home office/study space) will also find a ready, device-dependent prospective tenant pool.


In many instances, COVID-19 has exposed the essential or otherwise nature of various careers. Research from job site Seek in April revealed 82% of Australians had said their job had been directly impacted by COVID-19, with 30% having had their hours reduced or lost their job entirely. Some traditionally popular occupations, such as hospitality, travel and service-based/personal services, proved to be non-essential and resulted in widespread redundancies, while others, such as healthcare/medical, grocery stores, bus drivers and cleaners, were in high demand. Creating the workforce of the future is an opportunity for those in recruitment and education and training to provide re-skilling and up-skilling services.


Transformation of Lifestyle Choices 


Remote working is the next big trend and with it comes the transformation of lifestyle choices. Research from demographer Mark McCrindle showed 73% of Australians think they will continue WFH in the future, at least part-time. WFH may open up the regions to population and business growth with people no longer needing to be in the cities for work. Demand for property in rural and regional areas is increasing, with real estate agents helping urban dwellers exit the metropolises. Regional businesses in many guises – from accountants to yoga teachers – could see an upswing in activity with more people choosing beaches over boardrooms, bushland over busy commutes.


Lifestyle choices are also influencing homes. Research from builder ABN Group found 15% of survey respondents planned to work more from home even after the restrictions eased. As a result, 38% will look for a property with a home-office or study. More at-home entertaining is on the cards, with 27% likely to look for a home with multiple living areas. While 21% will exercise more from home, 20% would look for a home with a gym. A property with outdoor living or al fresco area was cited by 46% as preferable and 33% want to create a veggie patch. The return of adult children or older relatives to the family home is fanning the multi-generational home flame, with Fonzi studios and granny flats rising in popularity. Building and design companies together with associated trades, service providers, suppliers and retailers can capitalise on these trends.


Hotels and accommodation providers are also earmarked to enjoy a surge in bookings as restrictions ease. A survey by C|T Group showed 42% of respondents planned to book domestic holidays, while 23% would return to patronising the arts and entertainment venues. Overall, people indicated a desire to go “back to basics” and spend time with family and friends.


Trade experts are also tipping Australia will return to its traditional “rocks and crops” stance – selling natural resources (such as iron ore, gas, coal) and agriculture around the world. “Nimble” manufacturers who adapt and turn over new products are also expected to enjoy continued success.


COVID-19 has also seen a number of people start their own business – turning a passion project into a paying proposition, joining the gig economy, starting an online shop or service. Make sure your fledgling enterprise gets off on the right foot and chat to an EBM Account Manager about the insurances you need to protect your business and financial future.


The pandemic may well be the greatest economic challenge the world has faced since the Great Depression, but it is bringing new opportunities for Australian businesses and those who embrace the changes may not only survive, but thrive.


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