Are weak retail trade figures a sign of what’s to come?

August retail figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are showing a significant fall in turnover (0.6 per cent), seasonally adjusted, which is a major concern leading into Christmas.

National Retail Association (NRA) chief executive Dominique Lamb says this should serve as a warning as retailers are copping it from all sides.

“We’re seeing consistently flat results across virtually all sectors, and it’s clear that if we keep penalising retailers and preventing them from remaining competitive, these figures will only get worse,” she explains.

“The NRA has just held our annual retail awards, where we’ve explored and rewarded some incredibly innovative thinking and dynamic business models in the sector, however, the industry can only do so much on its own.

“We need as much adaptive thinking from others, so we can work with our decision-makers to enable, not hinder, the industry from evolving.”

Lamb adds the challengers trying to have the Fair Work Commission’s penalty rates decision overruled are risking retailers’ capacity to even create Sunday shifts in the first place.

“If retailers can’t afford to open their doors on a Sunday, in an environment where consumers are more price-driven than ever before, are spoiled for choice by international competitors who are not subjected to the same cost imposts our retailers are, and expect to be able to shop seven days a week, then everyone loses out.

“There’s no benefit to workers, no benefit to retailers and no benefit to the Australian economy in preventing retailers from being able to adapt alongside the rest of the world, and service consumers in a way they expect to be serviced.

“We need our decision-makers to recognise how the environment is changing and help rather than hinder one of the valuable industries to the Australian economy, to get on with the job,” she adds.

Australian Retailers Association executive director, Russell Zimmerman, adds that increased energy costs, higher tax burdens and an inflexible wage system are also affecting the industry. “…We need government action to increase consumer and business confidence.”

All states recorded a drop in growth year-on-year, an undesirable sign for the months ahead, says Zimmerman.

“July month-to-month retail trade figures saw a return to growth for department stores, to see these figures go backwards (-1.35 per cent) is of high concern to the sector.

“As we lead into spring racing and the beginning of the Christmas season we expect to see a pickup in both food retailing and clothing, footwear and accessories,” he adds.

By Marion Gerritsen