Recently released ABS figures for the final quarter of 2008 have proven that shopping in December saved retailers from what was going to be a very ordinary year in terms of sales.

According to the Australian National Retailers Association, 2008 was set to be a lacklustre year for retailers, but according to ANRA CEO Margy Osmond, the first economic stimulus package and interest rate cuts proved vital for the entire year’s growth.

“It’s clear that growth for the whole year was driven by December. In real seasonally adjusted terms, retail turnover for the December quarter was up 0.8 per cent. This result is above what we anticipated,” said Osmond.

Across Australia household goods and food sales rose 0.8 per cent, department stores remained flat, clothing sales declined by 0.4 per cent and the restaurant and takeaway food services fell 1.5 per cent.

In terms of individual state growth, NT was strongest with 8.7 per cent, followed by SA with 5.2 per cent. Tasmania also recorded a 4.9 per cent rise, along with Victoria with a growth of 2.6 per cent. Queensland and WA grew moderately by 0.9 and 0.2 per cent respectively, and both ACT and NSW fell by 0.9 and 2.5 per cent respectively.

The ANRA have also released the results of its latest consumer sentiment survey, the most interesting of the facts highlighted was that just over 50 per cent of respondents claimed they would spend their second cash bonus on non-essential items such as clothes and white goods.

Although a large proportion of Australians still claim to want to save their government handout, the result is still encouraging for retailers hoping to further boost sales in these tough economic times.