Retail sales fall 0.7 per cent in December

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, retailers had it tough over Christmas with a 0.7 per cent decline in sales over December. This is compared to a 1.5 per cent growth for the November period.

The seasonally adjusted figures highlighted that sales fell across all four retail industry groups: department stores (-3.5 per cent), Clothing, footwear and other personal accessory retailing (-1.9 per cent, food retailing (-1.3 per cent and household goods retailing (-0.3 per cent).

South Australia recorded the largest fall in sales for the month with a drop of -3.7 per cent, followed by Tasmania (-2.0 per cent), Victoria (-1.0 per cent), Queensland (-0.6 per cent), the Northern Territory (-0.4 per cent), the Australian Capital Territory (-0.4 per cent) and Western Australia (-0.1 per cent).

New South Wales was the only state to record growth in December with a 0.1 per cent increase.

Margy Osmond, CEO of the Australian National Retailers Association, commented on the figures.

“Christmas was not as strong as retailers hoped for and apart from the burst of activity on Boxing Day, the post Christmas sales were pretty patchy too. There was unprecedented discounting both before and after Christmas which has certainly put pressure on retailers’ margins,” she said.

“We always knew Christmas was going to be tough as retailers were cycling through some big numbers from December 2008 when retail sales were up 4.2 per cent.”

Osmond warned retailers that 2010 is going to be an uncertain year for retailers.

“Last year interest rates were low and many people received cash handouts which lifted retail spending massively,” she said.

“This year retailers are relying on the fundamentals of the market and there are some pretty strong headwinds including the prospect of more rate rises and discount-orientated consumer.”

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