March figures show retail growth

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the national retail spending figures for March, representing 3.6 per cent growth (year-on-year).

Retail turnover rose 0.4 per cent in March compared with February. The ABS found that there were rises in food retailing (0.6 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (1.1 per cent), other retailing (0.4 per cent) and household goods retailing (0.1 per cent). Turnover in cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services was relatively unchanged. Department stores fell (0.5 per cent).

In seasonally adjusted terms, there were rises in Victoria (0.5 per cent), NSW (0.4 per cent), WA (0.7 per cent), Queensland (0.2 per cent), SA (0.2 per cent) and Tasmania (0.6 per cent). There were falls in the ACT (0.6 per cent) and NT (0.2 per cent).

“We have seen below-average growth in March, which suggests that there continues to be some level of caution in consumer spending,” National Retail Association Industry Research & Data Analyst, Cameron Meiklejohn said. “The National Retail Association is still anticipating annual sales growth of 4.4 per cent in 2015/16 and, as a result, we are expecting to see an improvement in turnover across the final quarter of this financial year.”

Australian Retail Association Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the soft sales figures were a sign that the retail sector is still facing challenges.

“Overall, the figures may be a reflection of consumer nervousness in discretionary spending due to instability with the federal election and weak indicators from overseas,” he said.

“The federal election couldn’t come soon enough to restore certainty. Retailers are facing significant cost pressure at the moment with this week’s federal budget and interest rate cut being a positive, we also need the Government and Opposition to step in and increase consumer confidence by showing strong economic leadership and reform as part of their election campaigns.”

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