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According to Retail Trade figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for September 2017, Australian retail turnover remained relatively unchanged, following a fall of -0.5 per cent in August 2017.

In seasonally adjusted terms, department stores, food retailing and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services experienced rises of 2.1 per cent, 0.6 per cent, and 0.3 per cent respectively.

Other retailing, household goods retailing and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing declined 1.7 per cent, 0.4 per cent, and 0.7 per cent respectively in the September 2017 period.

Online retail turnover contributed 4.4 per cent to total retail turnover in original terms. In seasonally adjusted volume terms, total retail turnover rose 0.1 per cent in the September quarter 2017, following a rise of 1.5 per cent in the June quarter 2017.

“A fall in Household goods retailing (-1.6 per cent) offset the rises in food retailing, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, and other retailing,” Ben James, Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys director said.

In a statement issued by the National Retail Association (NRA), the three consecutive months of zero or negative growth, highlighs the very challenging environment retailers currently face.

“These results demonstrate the importance of every measure that gives business any opportunity to remain competitive – such as gradually reducing weekend penalty rates to more sensible levels,” Dominique Lamb NRA Chief Executive Officer said.

“It also should give governments reason to pause and consider the impacts of their decisions every time they roll out policy that will add to cost or red tape for retail business owners,” she said. “The coming months will be make or break for many retailers. They will be looking for a strong Christmas result to carry them through the new year.”

These sentiments were echoed by Australian Retailers Association (ARA) in a statement that described the September figures as “extremely frightening this close to the biggest trading period of the year”, and urges the Government to to act fast to stimulate the economy and refocus on increasing disposable income.

“With Christmas not too far away, and the ARA Roy Morgan Pre-Christmas Sales Predictions to be released in a couple of weeks, these figures are in all honesty alarming,” Russell Zimmerman ARA executive director said.

“These figures show an obvious weakness in consumer confidence. If Australians aren’t feeling wealthy they will spend less, and this weakness is an issue across the board,” he said.

“There has been a lot of change in the Australian retail environment this year, and with change comes uncertainty, but one thing is for sure, Christmas is coming.”

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