Bushfires and Black Friday impact December retail trade

Australian retail turnover was down 0.5% in December 2019, seasonally adjusted, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This follows a rise of 0.9% in November.

“The December fall comes after a strong November, led by Black Friday sales,” director of quarterly economy wide surveys, Ben James said. “There were also some effects from bushfires and associated smoke haze apparent in New South Wales data.”

Retail turnover in New South Wales fell 1.2%, South Australia was down 1.3%, Queensland 0.5% and Northern Territory 0.4%. Victoria and Western Australia were unchanged, and Tasmania bucked the trend, rising 1.1% in December.

Department stores experienced the biggest fall in turnover (2.8%), followed by clothing and footwear retailing (1.5%), takeaway food services (0.9%), food retailing (0.3%) and household goods retailing (0.3%). These falls were partially offset by a 0.2% rise in other retailing.

National Retail Association (NRA) CEO, Dominique Lamb said that these shifts in turnover between the two months demonstrates that increasing numbers of Australian consumers are now doing their Christmas shopping in late November rather than December.

“The shopping behaviour of Australian consumers is always changing, and this is best exemplified by the clear shift we’ve seen when it comes to making Christmas purchases,” Lamb said.

“For November 2019 we saw turnover increase, however the December figures shows a sizeable drop. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become increasingly popular, with shoppers making inroads into Christmas shopping by cashing in on these November bargain sales events.

“The important takeout for retailers is to be aware of this shift and understand it is likely to only become more pronounced in future years. Businesses should look to tailor their Christmas strategies to the last weekend of November.”

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