July retail sales “not good news for retailers”

Retail turnover stalled over the month of July, falling 0.1 per cent after a stronger 0.4 per cent increase in June, according to data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Four of the six industries analysed by the ABS saw sales fall over the month, across six of the eight states and territories, according to ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys Ben James. 

“Cafes, restaurants and takeaway services (-0.6 per cent) led the falls. There were also falls in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0/1 per cent), other retailing (-0.4 per cent), and department stores (-0.2 per cent),” said James. 

“Food retailing (0.3 per cent), and household goods retailing (0.1 per cent) rose this month.”

According to National Retailers Association chief executive Dominique Lamb, this result does not bode well for the retail industry at large. 

“The July results are not good news for retailers, we were hopeful of far better figures following a strong sales performance for June,” Lamb said. 

“A drop in turnover shows that consumer confidence remains stubbornly low, despite measures such as the personal tax cuts and reduction in interest rates.

“Retail is one of the largest sectors in Australia, and the biggest employer of young people, so it’s importance to the overall economy cannot be overstated.”

Lamb urged shoppers to use any money earned through tax cuts or interest rate drops at their local retailers, particularly small businesses, in the lead up to the pivotal Christmas period.

The ABS data echo online sales figures released on Tuesday by NAB, which found that online sales fell 2 per cent over the month of July, after a 1.8 per cent decrease in June. 

Year-on-year, July saw the first sales contraction on an annual basis since the NAB began recording online sales, having fallen 1.1 per cent compared to July 2018 – which saw very strong sales growth of 24 per cent.

“The weak result for the largest sales category, homewares and appliances contributed significantly to the headline result. With a couple of exceptions, sales for this category has been on the weaker side since October 2018,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster said. 

“The much smaller spend takeaway food led both month-on-month and year-on-year growth in July.”

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