Dreary December: Retail Figures Hit -0.1%

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Retail plunges further as sales turnover falls 0.1% for Christmas period.

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The figure reported yesterday by Australian Bureau Statistics, which also showed dismal yearly growth of 2.6%, well below inflation, point to a hugely disappointing Christmas, for what should be one of the busiest times in the sales calender.

The decline was most poignant in sales of food, cafes and restaurants, while clothes and shoe retailing (up 3.5% on November) told a relatively upbeat story. Although growth in department stores like Myer and David Jones also disappointed at (1.1%), well below exceptions.

Household goods retail was also sluggish, returning 0.02% growth and comes as Dick Smith, Officeworks and Harvey Norman are all reporting tough trading and poor sales recently.

‘Other’ retailing categories was static at 0% growth.

 In trend terms, turnover rose 0.2% in December 2011. This follows a rise of 0.2% in November and a rise of 0.2% in October.

Western Australia (10%), followed by Northern Territory (4.6%), and Victoria (2.6%), showed the biggest yearly retail growth followed by Queensland (1.8%), South Australia (1.5%), Tasmania (0.9%), and New South Wales (0.9%).

Australian Capital Territory retail was the only state which fell into negative growth -1.02%.

The most surprising figures were the reduced spending on food (-0.7%) and cafes and restaurants (-1.8%) compared to November, which could be due to grocery discounting from the big supermarket chains.

ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman, said consumers were being ultra conservative on their Christmas spend as sales for cafes, restaurants and food retailing shows consistent growth up until now.

The figures were also in line with reports of low consumer sentiment and ensuring debt levels were kept manageable, he added.

Heavy discounting also helped prop up the clothing and footwear industry but the sluggish growth also shows consumers weren’t enticed to part with their cash, despite the interest rates cuts.

However, the ABS figures did not include a category for online trading, which the retail chief warned was a grave mistake.
 

 

“Drilling down into ABS retail sub categories, showed NEC retailing ‘not elsewhere classified’, which includes pure play online among other things, jumped 14.7 percent year on year.” 

The ARA is calling on the ABS to rethink its category grouping to include online trading to give the industry some real data to help analyse key trends.

“Flat trade figures also show consumers weren’t really convinced by interest rate cuts over November and December, which strengthens the case for a further rate cut from the RBA tomorrow which banks need to pass on in full to their customers,” Zimmerman said.

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