Soft sell: slow retail year continued in August

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The retail sector has continued its slow year, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report.

The report showed soft sales figures for the month of August. There was a small rise in turnover of 0.3 per cent, making it the weakest back-to-back results for 2018.

Acting National Retail Association (NRA) CEO Lindsay Carroll says the report shows that the retail sector must avoid complacency ahead of Christmas.

“The August ABS retail figures are far from disastrous,” Ms Carroll said. “But they do show that the sector is continuing to experience a modest sales period.

“The August report is certainly an improvement on July, with five of the six retail industries recording a rise in turnover, and all state and territories bar the Northern Territory seeing an increase in sales.

‘Retail-friendly measures’

Ms Carroll says the ABS figures should motivate governments to put in “retail-friendly measures” before the festive period.

“Given this is the weakest back-to-back monthly sales result for the whole of 2018, it’s very important that we don’t get complacent ahead of the most important period of the year,” she said. “Especially with increases to Saturday and evening penalty rates being phased in for casual employees in retail from November 1.

“With consumer confidence still a little fragile at present, the NRA welcomed the news earlier in the week when the RBA refused to increase interest rates. A rise in the cash rate at this point would only result in shoppers having less money in their back pocket to spend.

“We also urge state governments to put in place extended trading hours during the Christmas period so that Aussie retailers can take full advantage of consumer demand during the festive season.”

Biggest rises by industry

  • Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food (0.7 per cent).
  • Clothing (0.8 per cent).
  • Department stores (0.9 per cent).

On a state basis, SA recorded the biggest increase in turnover (0.8 per cent). The NT experienced the biggest fall (-1.3 per cent).