August retail trade figures

Garners mixed industry responses.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) retail figures for August, showed a small rise in turnover of 0.3% with a warning about sector complacency leading into Christmas.

Acting National Retail Association (NRA) CEO, Lindsay Carroll, said while the figures are far from disastrous, they do show the sector is continuing to experience a modest sales period.

“The August report is certainly an improvement on July, with five of the six retail industries recording a rise in turnover,” she said, while emphasising the need for governments to put in place retail friendly measures, such as extended trading hours, ahead of Christmas.

“Given this is the weakest back-to-back monthly sales result for the whole of 2018, it’s very important that we don’t get complacent ahead of the most important period of the year, especially with increases to Saturday and evening penalty rates being phased-in for casual retail employees  from November 1.

“With consumer confidence still a little fragile, the NRA welcomed the news earlier in the week when the RBA refused to increase interest rates. A rise in the cash rate at this point would only result in shoppers having less money to spend,” Carrroll said.

However, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) believes the latest trade figures represent a quiet boost in consumer confidence with August seeing a 3.77% total year-on-year increase.

Executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said the results were driven by the launch of new season products and confidence in the change in Prime Minister. “We also saw a slight uptick in confidence around August after consumers received their tax refunds.”

“Department stores saw solid growth in August with this category reaching 2% year-on-year growth, the biggest increase since May this year,” he said.

Tasmania (6.20%) led the country in August trade, with Victoria (5.93%), South Australia (4.70%), New South Wales (4.28%) and the Australian Capital Territory (4.20%) not far behind. Queensland (2.39%) remained steady, while the Northern Territory (0.04%) received minimal growth and Western Australia (-0.99%) remained in negative territory for the fourth month in a row.

“This quiet growth is somewhat comforting for all retailers across Australia, especially leading up to Christmas,” Zimmerman said.

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