By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: Have the fiscal stimulus packages worked after all, or don’t consumers know we’re supposed to be in a recession? Results from the GfK TEMAX sales report for the first three months of the year show that sales in technical goods are up 12.3 per cent year on year.

Former PM, Paul Keating, famously called Australia’s economic recession of the early 1990’s the “recession we had to have”. The comment helped him lose an election, but since then, Australia has never been in recession — a recession means two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth in a country’s economy.

So if the only “recession we had to have” was the one and only one we’ve had in nearly 20 years, what then is this recession we seem to be skirting around, the ‘recession we haven’t had’?

Latest sales figures for the three months ending March 31, in the 80 technical goods categories measured by GfK show 12.3 per cent value growth overall with much higher growth figures growth figures recorded within some categories.

The air conditioners category is up 37.6 per cent and electric fan sales are up 82.4 per cent year on year. Sales of vacuum cleaners, food preparation products and hot beverage makers also increased significantly. And all these categories increased their average price in quarter 1 2009, versus quarter 1 2008.

Small domestic appliances, IT and telecoms all achieved growth of over 20 per cent in quarter 1 2009, versus quarter 1 2008. The Photo category also experienced double-digit growth of 14.5 per cent, while consumer electronics, major domestic appliances and office equipment had more modest performances of 4.9 per cent, 2.6 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.

GfK reports also that the value of the IT market in quarter 1, 2009, was actually higher than the revenue achieved in quarter 4, 2008. GfK attributed this to factors including the Government stimulus package, the back to school bonus, and farmers’ hardship payments. The value sale of notebooks increased by almost 42 per cent (as a result, monitor sales fell by 17 per cent for the quarter). Netbooks accounted for 9 per cent  of the value share of notebooks in quarter 1, 2009. External hard disk drives were also a key factor in the overall growth in IT with a 56 per cent growth for the quarter.