Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Retail turnover falls in March

Australian retail turnover fell 0.4% in March, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This follows a rise of 0.2% in February and a rise of 1% in January. Year on year, retail sales increased 0.8%.

“Consumers pulled back on retail spending in March as cost-of-living pressures remained high,” says ABS Head of Retail Statistics Ben Dorber.

“Underlying retail turnover has been flat for the past six months and was up only 0.8% compared to March 2023. Outside of the pandemic period and introduction of the GST, this is the weakest growth on record when comparing turnover to the same time in the previous year.”

Turnover fell in all industries in March except for food retailing (up 0.9%),

The largest falls were recorded in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (down 4.3%) and department stores (down 1.6%).

Household goods retailing (down 1.4%), other retailing (down 0.3%) and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (down 0.2%) also recorded falls.

Year on year sales

Other retailing saw the strongest growth in March (up 2.4%), followed by food (up 2.1%) and cafes, restaurants and takeaway (up 1.2%).

The discretionary retail categories of household goods (down 3.1%), clothing, footwear and accessories (down 0.4%) and department stores (down 0.3%) all recorded declines.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra says retail spending in March remained subdued despite Easter celebrations, holiday spending and the additional one million Australians spending over the Easter break compared to the previous year.

“In previous years, Easter has occurred in April – this year, we celebrated Easter at the end of March which helped prevent overall trading from falling into decline,” he says.

“Australians are still cutting back on spending as the lag effect of interest rate rises continues to take hold. While food spending remains constant, there has been a shift towards more affordable and value-oriented products in recent months.

“The discretionary categories are being hit the hardest, as seen with household goods, clothing and department stores this month despite mid-season sales commencing earlier because of an earlier Easter.

“The ongoing cost-of-living pressures and interest rate ramifications are making it a challenging period for those in the discretionary retail sector.

“While we are hopeful of a rate cut in the near future, for retailers we anticipate the pressure of a slowdown in discretionary spend coupled with cost of doing business pressure, remaining in place for most of this year.”

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