It was unsettling news that no retailer wanted to hear yesterday from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Sales for July saw a 0.2% increase in trend terms but a 0.1% fall when seasonally adjusted. It reveals that the steady growth in retail of the past two years may be waning and has spurred calls urgent economic reforms and to boost productivity.

The ABS found that consumer spending grew in categories including clothing, footwear and personal accessories, department stores (1.3%) and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.3%). There were falls in household goods retailing (-1.9%) and other retailing (-0.6%). Food retailing was unchanged for the month.

National Retail Association CEO Trevor Evans (pictured) said the July figures, “Today’s figures reflect the results for the overall economy which show that Australia is still growing but not as strongly as it could be,” Evans said.



“This clearly points to the need for urgent reform across the economy – in taxation, in government spending, workplace relations and in productivity measures.

“We can no longer sit on our hands and just hope for a continuation of the strong economic performance that Australians have become used to in recent decades.

“On behalf of retailers – a major employment sector in the economy – we call on the Federal and State Governments to redouble their efforts to boost productivity and to create the conditions that will allow businesses to thrive and employment to flourish.

“And just as importantly, we urge the Federal Opposition and Senate crossbenchers to step out of the way of much needed reforms to the Federal Budget, to workplace laws and to taxation measures.  All Australians will suffer if this does not occur.”

Falls in NSW, VIC, SA and ACT

In seasonally adjusted terms Queensland (0.3 per cent), Western Australia (0.3 per cent) and the Northern Territory (0.1 per cent) enjoyed increases in spending, while New South Wales (-0.2 per cent), South Australia (-0.8 per cent), Victoria (-0.2 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (-0.2 per cent) all went backwards.  Tasmania was unchanged.

Online retail turnover contributed 3.1% to total retail turnover in original terms.

Mr Evans said the 0.1% fall in seasonally adjusted spending was not surprising, given the very strong rise of 0.6% in June.

“Previous figures have shown that the stimulus measures in the Federal Budget clearly had a significant impact on spending in May and June,” Evans said.

“It’s to be expected that some spending would have been brought forward into June to take advantage of the tax breaks.  The figures will hopefully return to normal in coming months.

“But that doesn’t mean that we can afford to do nothing on the economic reform front.