Buying Australian: why it's no longer a sign of parochialism | Kanebridge News
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,526,212 (+1.41%)       Melbourne $950,600 (-0.81%)       Brisbane $848,079 (+0.39%)       Adelaide $783,680 (+0.69%)       Perth $722,301 (+0.42%)       Hobart $727,777 (-0.40%)       Darwin $644,340 (-0.88%)       Canberra $873,193 (-2.75%)       National $960,316 (+0.31%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $711,149 (+0.79%)       Melbourne $480,050 (-0.07%)       Brisbane $471,869 (+1.52%)       Adelaide $395,455 (-0.79%)       Perth $396,215 (+0.44%)       Hobart $535,914 (-1.67%)       Darwin $365,715 (+0.11%)       Canberra $487,485 (+1.06%)       National $502,310 (+0.25%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,985 (+170)       Melbourne 11,869 (-124)       Brisbane 8,074 (+47)       Adelaide 2,298 (-22)       Perth 6,070 (+20)       Hobart 993 (+24)       Darwin 282 (-4)       Canberra 809 (+43)       National 39,380 (+154)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 7,927 (+125)       Melbourne 6,997 (+50)       Brisbane 1,822 (+3)       Adelaide 488 (+5)       Perth 1,915 (-1)       Hobart 151 (+3)       Darwin 391 (-9)       Canberra 680 (+5)       National 20,371 (+181)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 (-$20)       Melbourne $580 ($0)       Brisbane $590 (+$10)       Adelaide $570 (-$5)       Perth $600 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $700 (+$5)       Canberra $670 (+$10)       National $633 (-$1)                    UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $700 (-$20)       Melbourne $558 (+$8)       Brisbane $590 ($0)       Adelaide $458 (-$3)       Perth $550 ($0)       Hobart $450 ($0)       Darwin $550 ($0)       Canberra $540 (-$10)       National $559 (-$4)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,224 (-134)       Melbourne 5,097 (+90)       Brisbane 3,713 (-84)       Adelaide 1,027 (-3)       Perth 1,568 (-46)       Hobart 471 (-3)       Darwin 127 (+13)       Canberra 658 (-32)       National 17,885 (-199)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,171 (-343)       Melbourne 5,447 (-170)       Brisbane 1,682 (-22)       Adelaide 329 (+3)       Perth 561 (-11)       Hobart 159 (-6)       Darwin 176 (+16)       Canberra 597 (-12)       National 17,122 (-545)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 2.56% (↓)       Melbourne 3.17% (↓)     Brisbane 3.62% (↑)        Adelaide 3.78% (↓)       Perth 4.32% (↓)     Hobart 3.93% (↑)      Darwin 5.65% (↑)      Canberra 3.99% (↑)        National 3.43% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 5.12% (↓)       Melbourne 6.04% (↓)       Brisbane 6.50% (↓)     Adelaide 6.02% (↑)        Perth 7.22% (↓)     Hobart 4.37% (↑)      Darwin 7.82% (↑)        Canberra 5.76% (↓)       National 5.79% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 1.0% (↑)      Melbourne 0.7% (↑)      Brisbane 0.8% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)        Perth 0.4% (↓)       Hobart 1.2% (↓)     Darwin 0.5% (↑)      Canberra 1.5% (↑)      National 0.8% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND         Sydney 1.3% (↓)     Melbourne 1.6% (↑)      Brisbane 0.9% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 0.7% (↑)      Hobart 2.2% 2.0% (↑)      Darwin 1.0% (↑)        Canberra 1.7% (↓)     National 1.3% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND       Sydney 27.0 (↑)        Melbourne 28.3 (↓)     Brisbane 32.3 (↑)      Adelaide 26.3 (↑)      Perth 34.9 (↑)        Hobart 33.4 (↓)     Darwin 48.7 (↑)        Canberra 27.6 (↓)     National 32.3 (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 27.0 (↓)       Melbourne 29.0 (↓)     Brisbane 33.0 (↑)        Adelaide 27.5 (↓)     Perth 38.2 (↑)      Hobart 33.4 (↑)      Darwin 48.3 (↑)      Canberra 33.2 (↑)      National 33.7 (↑)            
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Buying Australian: why it’s no longer a sign of parochialism

As the Australian made edition of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine hits stands this weekend, we examine the case for purchasing locally made product

By Robyn Willis
Fri, Jun 9, 2023 3:51pmGrey Clock 5 min

Mention Australian made products to family and friends and it’s likely everyone will agree it’s a good thing to do. 

Polling by Roy Morgan as recently as February this year shows 80 percent of shoppers consider buying Australian made products important, mainly because it supports local jobs and the wider economy. The survey also found that 67 percent of shoppers reported buying Australian-made products ‘often’ or ‘always’.

But while most of us are happy to buy, say, Australian made peanut butter or even skin care products, we’re less inclined to choose a locally crafted table over an imported product, mainly because of the price. 

Canberra-based craftsman Rolf Barfoed says COVID changed attitudes to buying local. With many working from home and borders closed to everyone and everything — including many goods manufactured offshore — Australians began to reassess their buying practices, as well as their domestic environments.

“We got quite busy after COVID struck because people were forced to look inwards and instead of going overseas on holiday, they had a bit of money to spend locally,” Barfoed says of his workshop where he manages a team of three. “There were a lot of people working from home and they were looking at their homes more critically.”

Desks and bookshelves were a popular choice, as many looked to properly furnish home offices, while beds and bedside tables also rated highly, providing a sense of sanctuary and comfort during uncertain times.

However, as restrictions lifted and with more people growing concerned about rising cost of living pressures, Barfoed says he has noticed a shift in buying patterns.

“Ever since the threat of recession, things have tightened up and sales have slowed,” he says.

For more stories like this, order your copy of the latest issue of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here

While some may be put off by the higher costs — a reflection of higher wages being paid to Australian workers — Barfoed says the final price is just the start of the story. He gains most of his work from Sydney and Canberra via word-of-mouth commissions, allowing buyers to connect with their piece of furniture from the start. And some connections are stronger than others.

“In Canberra there is a pool in Manuka and there was a big oak tree over the pool which came down in a storm,” he says. “We had people who had swum in that pool as children who asked if we could make something out of the tree for them, so we created two dining tables. It helps that the timber miller is well connected in town and he has the means to pick up trees like that.”

Most timber, however, is sourced through more traditional avenues, although local timbers have been harder to find since the 2019/2020 bushfires. 

For those after something unique and fit for purpose though, the experience of commissioning from a local maker is unmatched.

“The option for customisation is a big factor and we will tailor it to exactly what the client wants,” Barfoed says. “It is always a nerve wracking experience handing over a piece of furniture. You want the client to be happy with your work.”

Kate Stokes, co-founder of award-winning Melbourne lighting and furniture studio Coco Flip says ‘locally made’ also means shorter lead times and more reliable supply chains for retailers, designers and homeowners.

“We have really good relationships with all our manufacturers which means there’s a lot more quality assurance,” she says. “If something goes wrong, you just send it back to us. You can’t do that so easily if it’s arrived by ship.”

While the products, which include their Coco pendant light, Mayu floor lamp and Sequence dining tables often do cost more upfront than imported items, Stokes says they are better financial investments over the long term.

“We want to design things that people are not going to tire of in five years so our designs are classic, contemporary and able to fit into a range of styles and interiors,” she says. “Construction has to be robust and material choices have to be solid and last a long time.

“We want people to love them for a long time.”

Stokes and co-founder Haslett Grounds also work with longstanding manufacturers such as Specialty Pleaters in Williamstown, which was founded in 1925 and is now the last remaining pleating studio in Melbourne.

“We love working with local manufacturers and Specialty Pleaters have been in business for about 100 years but they are potentially facing closure because production is increasingly going off shore,” Stokes says.

Australian furniture manufacturing legend, Tony Parker, of Parker Furniture fame says if Australians don’t support locally made furniture and homewares, they will cease to exist — and those traditional skills will all but vanish.

“When you buy locally made, the goods are also serviced in Australia and the infrastructure to manufacture is here,” Parker says. “You have apprenticeships for training people in cabinetwork, upholstery and other skilled trades.”

He laments what he sees as the decline in quality of mass produced goods flooding the Australian market from overseas, not just because it means jobs are taken offshore, but that buyers are not getting value for money.

Australian furniture legend Tony Parker laments the quality of furniture imported into Australia

“They have slowly eroded quality,” he says. “Everyone closes on price. In actual fact, people are paying more than they were in the 70s, relative to wages, and it was better made then.

“The retailer is looking for a cheaper price and the customer is not looking at quality.”

Fred Kimel, founder of Handkrafted, which connects Australian makers directly with the public, says buying locally is an investment in the future, in more ways than one.

“The result is (a piece) typically much higher quality than the vast majority of furniture that is manufactured overseas,” Kimel says. Locally made bespoke furniture is made-to-last and will retain value as it can always be sold or passed on — it’s far less likely to find its way into landfill.

“On the sustainability front, our local regulations help to ensure that timber used by local makers is forestry certified and not from unregulated or illegally logged forest timber.”

And if it’s that lovely rush of endorphins experienced when you buy that floats your boat, buying an Australian made product has to be the ultimate shopping high.

Craftsman Josh Pinkus in his Sydney workshop. His work is available through Handkrafted.

“Perhaps one of the biggest draw cards is simply the enjoyable process of working so closely with a local maker,” Kimel says. 

“Clients will often visit their workshops and take much more interest in the selection of raw materials, design decisions and production methods. It’s an experience that lives on through the product.”

Advance Australia fair, indeed.


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Indeed, a number of forces—from the prospect of more Covid-19 cases in the fall to a weakening economy—could push the return rate into reverse, property owners and city officials say.

More than before, chief executives at blue-chip companies are stepping up efforts to fill their workspace. Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase are among the companies that have recently vowed to get tougher on employees who don’t show upIn August, Meta told employees they could face disciplinary action if they regularly violate new workplace rules.

But these actions haven’t yet moved the national return rate needle much, and a majority of companies remain content to allow employees to work at least part-time remotely despite the tough talk.

Most employees go into offices during the middle of the week, but floors are sparsely populated on Mondays and Fridays. In Chicago, some September days had a return rate of over 66%. But it was below 30% on Fridays. In New York, it ranges from about 25% to 65%, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks security-card swipes.

Overall, the average return rate in the 10 U.S. cities tracked by Kastle Systems matched the recent high of 50.4% of 2019 levels for the week ended Sept. 20, though it slid a little below half the following week.

The disappointing return rates are another blow to office owners who are struggling with vacancy rates near record highs. The national office average vacancy rose to 19.2% last quarter, just below the historical peak of 19.3% in 1991, according to Moody’s Analytics preliminary third-quarter data.

Business leaders in New York, Detroit, Seattle, Atlanta and Houston interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said they have seen only slight improvements in sidewalk activity and attendance in office buildings since Labor Day.

“It feels a little fuller but at the margins,” said Sandy Baruah, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business group.

Lax enforcement of return-to-office rules is one reason employees feel they can still work from home. At a roundtable business discussion in Houston last week, only one of the 12 companies that attended said it would enforce a return-to-office policy in performance reviews.

“It was clearly a minority opinion that the others shook their heads at,” said Kris Larson, chief executive of Central Houston Inc., a group that promotes business in the city and sponsored the meeting.

Making matters worse, business leaders and city officials say they see more forces at work that could slow the return to office than those that could accelerate it.

Covid-19 cases are up and will likely increase further in the fall and winter months. “If we have to go back to distancing and mask protocols, that really breaks the office culture,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the business group Partnership for New York City.

Many cities are contending with an increase in homelessness and crime. San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which are struggling with these problems, are among the lowest return-to-office cities in the Kastle System index.

About 90% of members surveyed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said that the city couldn’t recover until homelessness and public safety problems were addressed, said Rachel Smith, chief executive. That is taken into account as companies make decisions about returning to the office and how much space they need, she added.

Cuts in government services and transportation are also taking a toll. Wait times for buses run by Houston’s Park & Ride system, one of the most widely used commuter services, have increased partly because of labor shortages, according to Larson of Central Houston.

The commute “is the remaining most significant barrier” to improving return to office, Larson said.

Some landlords say that businesses will have more leverage in enforcing return-to-office mandates if the economy weakens. There are already signs of such a shift in cities that depend heavily on the technology sector, which has been seeing slowing growth and layoffs.

But a full-fledged recession could hurt office returns if it results in widespread layoffs. “Maybe you get some relief in more employees coming back,” said Dylan Burzinski, an analyst with real-estate analytics firm Green Street. “But if there are fewer of those employees, it’s still a net negative for office.”

The sluggish return-to-office rate is leading many city and business leaders to ask the federal government for help. A group from the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition recently met with elected officials in Washington, D.C., lobbying for incentives for businesses that make commitments to U.S. downtowns.

Baruah, from the Detroit chamber, was among the group. He said the chances of such legislation being passed were low. “We might have to reach crisis proportions first,” he said. “But we’re trying to lay the groundwork now.”


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