Australian retail turnover declined 0.4 per cent in December 2018, following a 0.5 per cent rise in November, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ACT saw the largest decline – down 1.8 per cent – followed by New South Wales (-0.6 per cent), Victoria (-0.5 per cent), South Australia (-0.3 per cent), the Northern Territory (-0.3 per cent) Tasmania (-0.2 per cent) and Queensland (-0.1 per cent). Western Australia was the only state to record an increase, rising 0.1 per cent during the period.

Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys at the ABS, Ben James, said that Black Friday sales in November contributed to the fall in December.

“Household goods (-2.8 per cent) and Clothing and footwear (-2.4 per cent) led the falls after strong rises in November from Black Friday promotions.

“There were also falls in Department stores (-1.1 per cent) and Other retailing (-0.1 per cent),” he said.

Food services experienced rises in December with Food retailing increasing 0.5 per cent and Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services rising 1.1 per cent.

Executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, said that although the month-on-month figures represented a decline, the year-on-year figures paint a different picture.

"Although the month-on-month figures from the ABS display a conservative December trade, retailers tend to focus on year-on-year growth for a more concise depiction of how their stores are faring.

"Each year the ARA and Roy Morgan work together to produce the only professionally industry researched Christmas predictions in Australia, and we believe the figures released [by the ABS] are broadly in line with the figures forecasted in November.

"It is important to note that there are a variety of factors that have contributed to these soft figures, including the decrease in consumer sentiment caused by rising household costs and low wage growth, which continues to plague the industry and overall economy.

"[However] food retailing performed exceptionally well this season, with specialised food in particular posting a 3.1 per cent year-on-year growth, while Other retailing (7.84 per cent year-on-year growth) proved to be the real standout for this month," he said.

Online retail turnover contributed 5.6 per cent to the total retail turnover in December, declining one per cent from 6.6 per cent in November.

In December 2017, online retail contributed 4.8 per cent to total retail, so despite the decline from November 2018 to December 2018, online retail turnover is still growing year on year.

To read the full report, click here.

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