Retail trade in December was down 2.7% compared to November and inched up 0.8% year-on-year, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Households goods retailing was the most impacted category, falling 8.5% or $526 million month-on-month, closely followed by department stores, which experienced an 8.1% drop. Food retailing was the only category to report positive growth – albeit only 0.1%.

Western Australia and the ACT experienced the largest declines (both down 3.8%), closely followed by Victoria (-3.2%) and the Northern Territory (-3%). Tasmania was the least impacted state with sales falling 0.3%.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO, Paul Zahra said the results reflect projections that 2023 Christmas spend would tread water as shoppers tighten budgets.

“Throughout Christmas and the Boxing Day sales, we saw bargain-driven shoppers, who actively sought out the best deals and looked for value purchases. With household budgets under pressure, Christmas in 2023 was somewhat subdued compared to previous years – a result of cost-of-living challenges. We aren’t seeing the year-on-year growth that we did in previous years,” he said.

“The rising popularity of Black Friday also impacted December trade, with many Australians opting to purchase Christmas gifts earlier during the major sales event in November. With high interest rates and increasing costs for families, we’re continuing to see a softening in discretionary spending.”