What Christmas? December Retail Down: ABS

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December retail down slightly, according to newly released ABS figures.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) latest figures show retail turnover fell 0.2 per cent in December, despite the widely expected Christmas spending boom.

The drop was identical to the previous month’s fall. The trend estimate for retail turnover also fell 0.1 per cent last month, according the the ABS. However, compared to 2011, sales rose 2.3%.

Online retail sales fell slightly last month, according to NAB Index released this week, although were up 23% y-o-y.

The largest contributor to the fall was ‘Other’ retailing fell -2.8 per cent, followed by cafes, food services (-1.1 per cent) and food retailing. 

However, there were rises in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (+2.1%), household goods which includes consumer electronics (+0.8%), and department stores (+0.8). Electrical and electronic goods retailing rose 0.2%. 

Over the longer term, ‘Other’ retailing and household goods were the weakest performing industries in trend terms, down 0.5 and 0.4 per cent respectively.

ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the figures would be disappointing to retailers who were hoping for some love from shoppers for the festive season and showed consumers were under too much pressure with tax hikes, increases in utility bills and private health insurance.

“Compared to December 2011 overall retail growth sat at 2.3 percent for December 2012, which is well below the rate of inflation. It was clear in the lead up to Christmas household budgets were stretched to the limit,” he said. 

NSW retailers bore the brunt of the fall in spending down 0.7%, followed by Victoria (-0.2 per cent), Western Australia (-0.3 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (-0.8 per cent).

Retail turnover in Tasmania (+2%), the Northern Territory (+0.7) and South Australia (+0.1), all rose.

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