My two eldest sons play football for an amateur club in Melbourne, recently completing their season for the first time since 2019. Fortunately, both teams finished in a winning way and performed well, making me a very proud dad.
To complete the year the club held a black-tie affair for over 400 players, coaches, helpers, partners (some, not enough!) and a few parents. Unlike 20 years ago when I finished playing, this presentation night was electric. Eleven teams receiving five awards each, the event could easily have become a borefest; this is not our club’s way anymore. A couple of life members were announced, then they whipped through the honors. Winners were proclaimed at pace, accompanied by great music and a lot of people on their feet going crazy. I was left wanting more. My video evidence is outstanding proof of a truly exceptional celebration of community sport. By comparison, back in my day, it was a dull affair indeed.
Despite the whooping and hollering and the hundreds of smiles, there were still plenty of attendees who managed to find something to complain about. “This group was thanked but not us.” “That person spoke too long.” “Why wasn’t I asked to award that trophy.” “That guy’s speech missed the point, badly.” Completely unnecessary. As humans, why can’t we celebrate the great stuff and move past the trifling matters of little (if any) consequence?
While I was pretending to listen to another insignificant grievance, my mind wandered to similar incidents at work, where equally wasteful energy is spent focusing on those matters believed to be imperfect, rather than concentrating on the good stuff.
Let’s start with the virus that has dominated our lives. It didn’t beat us, we’ve endured the upheaval. If we had known what was ahead, who could have believed we’d be living as well as we are? Complaints were justified a year back. Not now.
In the housing industry constant gripes about negative migration, spiraling input costs, labour and material shortages fix nothing. Despite the many challenges we are coming out the other side. And, improving conditions are well and truly underway. Builders are beginning to see higher priced jobs hit site, global supply chains have been improving since April, construction times are shortening, detached house sales in Victoria remain obstinately strong – comparing well with pre-2020 volumes – and cost increases have slowed dramatically. Renovation activity is solid and expected to remain so. Our population numbers did fall back but will grow steadily over the next five years and, as an added bonus, the average number of people per household continues to fall. More building required!
At the Commonwealth Government’s ‘Jobs and Skills Summit’ some reasonable outcomes were reached. Immigration numbers will be lifted, international students can extend their stay by a further two years, $36m has been appropriated to assist with the backlog of skilled migrant visas (960,000 on a waiting list) and pensioners have been given more incentives to re-join or stay in the workforce.
While the doomsayers will suggest significant house price falls are catastrophic, it is expected they will bottom out well above pre-covid levels and in so doing improve affordability. While rising inflation has created headlines through 2022, it has remained stubbornly low for 15 years. It will become less of a feature soon enough, with Westpac Economics predicting it will be at 3.1 per cent in 2023 and 2.7 per cent in 2024.
“While the doomsayers will suggest significant house price falls are catastrophic, it is expected they will bottom out well above pre-covid levels and in so doing improve affordability.”
Yes, the cash rate has risen aggressively and will continue to make headlines into early next year. But really, when we look at what Australia lived with in the late ‘80s early ‘90s, I’m not sure any grumbles can be justified. Again, Westpac predicts the cash rate will at 3.35 per cent by year’s end and peak at 3.6 per cent next February.
Household debt in arrears is less than any time in 16 years, Australia’s savings ratio has slipped but is still 2½ ppts above ‘normal’, company insolvencies are in line with pre-covid levels after a two-year government directed hiatus, unemployment is at record lows, thereby strengthening the nation’s bottom line and NAB’s survey of business confidence continues to be strong.
At Bowens, we could spend time whinging about the supply of doors and continuing transport issues, however this takes attention away from today’s reality: we are increasingly better off than we have been for nearly three years. The price of steel is coming down and international demand for wood fibre has reduced, leading to fewer gaps in our inventory and more competitive options out of Europe. Fuel prices are falling, we hope this will soon lead to reduced costs.
“At Bowens, we could spend time whinging about the supply of doors and continuing transport issues, however this takes attention away from today’s reality: we are increasingly better off than we have been for nearly three years.”
With shipping channels freeing up, direct and indirect importing should soon be significantly more predictable and lead times shortened. It is our aim to have all products in stock and orders turned around in hours, not days or weeks as it has been.
LVL supply, which has been affected by supercharged worldwide demand, the Ukraine war and even a flood on the Nullarbor, is back in stock. Our stores haven’t had as much on the ground since June 2020.
I have flogged various forms of positive contemplations in these pages for many years. At the same time, I am not blind to the reality of this messed up world. The opening of Australia’s borders is unlikely to see a replacement of the workers lost through Covid and Central Banks across the world have erred in printing too much money – government support was enough. Russia’s conflict with its neighbour remains a concern and what about China? While our relationship ‘feels’ better, who knows what they are planning? Skilled trades continue to be in shortage. Energy intensive materials such as concrete and aluminum products are likely to reduce the positive outcomes of settling prices in other categories. Even so, there is a lot more of the ‘good stuff’ happening than ‘bad’ – this is where our focus needs to be.
We brought our team of Store, Sales and Account Managers together in August to highlight the economy’s impending return to ‘normal’. Bowens must be ready. The standards of service, delivery turn arounds and the predictability of doing the simple things exceptionally well has been difficult to achieve. A great opportunity to be better happens now.
We have new stores opening and a long list of initiatives to execute. The worst is behind us and while we will no doubt encounter further unexpected obstacles, we have a lot to be thankful for and even more to look forward to. Let us not waste our time on the bits that don’t really matter.