Australian retail sales slightly up in April

Australian retail sales increased by a mere 1.3 per cent to $35.7 billion in April, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

On a month-on-month basis, sales rose by just 0.1 per cent in April after falling 0.4 per cent in March.

The highest year-on-year growth was in the ‘other retailing’ category, which includes cosmetics, sports and recreational goods, up by 4.7 per cent.

Food sales emerged with the second highest growth of 1.9 per cent, along with cafes, restaurants and takeaway.

“Underlying retail spending continues to be weak with a small rise in turnover in April not enough to make up for a fall in March,” said Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, referring to the month-on-month figures.

He noted that, according to retailers, alcohol spending dropped as consumers brought forward their purchases into March opting for cheaper alcoholic drinks.

National Retail Association interim CEO Lindsay Carroll said the April retail trade had gone backwards in real terms, given that the 0.1 per cent month-on-month increase in sales could be tied to inflated prices.

Clothing, footwear, and accessories sales suffered the largest decline of 2.5 per cent, according to the ABS data.

Household goods fell 1.3 per cent, marking its fifth consecutive month of decline. Department store sales also decreased 1.3 per cent.

“The relatively earlier Easter and the different timing of school holidays across the country meant we saw some added volatility in turnover in March and April,” said Dorber.

Across all regions, the NT had the highest sales increase of 3.7 per cent, followed by Tasmania at 2.7 per cent and Queensland at 2.2 per cent.

WA’s sales rose 1.6 per cent while ACT went up 0.9 per cent. NSW and Victoria grew 0.8 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

“The ongoing cost-of-living pressures, interest rate ramifications and increased cost of doing business make it a very challenging period for those in the discretionary retail sector, particularly for SMBs,” said Paul Zahra, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO.

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