Retail sales up for second consecutive month

Australian retail sales rose for the second consecutive month this year, after a disappointing end to 2017.

Turnover rose 0.6 per cent in February, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), following a 0.2 per cent rise in January.

Ben James, director of quarterly economy wide surveys at the ABS, says all industries saw increases in February.

“[This was] led by household goods retailing (1.1 per cent), food retailing (0.3 per cent), cafes, restaurants and takeaways (0.7 per cent) and clothing, footwear and personal accessories (1.1 per cent). Department stores rose (1.5 per cent) after falls in each of the preceding three months. Other retailing also rose (0.2 per cent),” he says.

National Retail Association (NRA) CEO Dominique Lamb says the February results are promising for the retail sector, following lacklustre sales in December and January.

“The release of the ABS figures for February show that the spending slump in retail sales has come to an end,” she says. “The best news…was the bounce back in sales for department stores.”

The February increase represents 3.01 per cent growth year-on-year, which the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) attributed to later than usual spending.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman says he believes most of the growth came from late spending in fashion, footwear and back-to-school trade.

“With the clothing category receiving a 6.58 per cent year-on-year increase—the best growth it’s seen since December 2016—it’s fair to say consumers wanted to buy those last summer garments before winter stock hit the shelves,” he says.

Online retail turnover contributed 5.1 per cent to total retail turnover in original terms in February 2018. This is up from 3.6 per cent in February 2017.

By Ruth Cooper