Retail sales relatively flat

For January.

Australian retail turnover rose a modest 0.1% in January 2019, seasonally adjusted, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), following a fall of 0.4% in December 2018.

There were mixed results across the industries with rises in food retailing and hospitality offset by a 2.1% decline in department store sales.

In seasonally adjusted terms, there were rises in New South Wales of 0.7% and Tasmania 0.4% and a 0.1% rise in Victoria and South Australia but declines in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

Online retail turnover contributed 5.6% per cent to total retail turnover in original terms in January 2019, unchanged from December 2018. In January 2018, online retail turnover contributed 4.7% to total retail.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said the January figures pointed to a softer than expected retail trade. “While department stores saw a decrease in year-on-year growth for January, it was important to note that Myer had a return on profitability for the first six months of this year, ARA executive director, Russell Zimmerman said.

While the ABS data for January 2019 is modest overall, it is a significant improvement on the December 2018 results, National Retail Association (NRA) CEO, Dominique Lamb said.

“While January hasn’t proved to be a ground-breaking month by any stretch, on the plus side it does indicate that retail is slowly picking itself up and heading in the right direction.

The January results also demonstrated the need to focus on consumer spending ahead of the upcoming Federal Budget on April 2.

“It is less than a month before the Federal Budget and it’s vital that the most important economic statement of the year focuses on encouraging consumer spending. Measures such as tax cuts, infrastructure spending and initiatives that ease the burden on small business can all help improve the economy and assist retail in getting out of this sluggish phase it’s experiencing,” she said.

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