Retail volumes rise in December quarter

Australian retail sales volumes rose 0.3% in the last quarter of 2023, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This follows a revised fall of 0.1% in the September quarter and a fall of 1.1% in the June quarter.

“The rise in December retail sales volumes was supported by lower price growth for retail goods,” says ABS Head of Retail Statistics Ben Dorber. “Consumers particularly took advantage of discounting for discretionary items like furniture and electronic goods.”

Despite the rise, retail sales volumes were down 1% compared to the 2022 December quarter.

Retail volumes on a per capita basis (down 0.3%) fell for a sixth straight quarter, down 3.5% compared to this time last year.

“Removing the effects of strong population and price growth clearly shows how consumers have responded to cost-of-living pressures,” says Mr Dorber. “Sales volumes per person have fallen every quarter since reaching a peak in June 2022, although they remain above pre-pandemic levels.”

The rise in volumes was driven mostly by the non-food related industries. Of these industries, household goods retailing (up 2.3%) had the largest rise, followed by other retailing (up 0.4%), and department stores (up 0.2%).

Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (down 1.6%) was the only non-food industry to record a fall. This was the second quarterly fall in a row; however, retail volumes are up 0.5% compared to the same time last year.

Food retailing rose 0.5%, following two straight quarterly falls. The rise in food volumes has been supported by easing food price growth (0.6%), down from 0.8% last quarter.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services fell 2.1%. This is the third straight quarterly fall and largest since the 2021 September quarter. Volumes continue to fall from previously high levels.

Most states and territories recorded a rise in retail volumes this quarter. Victoria (down 0.5%) was the only state to record a fall, while the ACT remained unchanged.

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