Retail slow in January despite spending on “little luxuries”

While several retailers have talked about conditions improving since a somewhat dismal holiday trading period, the Australian Bureau of Statistics have released a more muted view of month of January, with retail sales having improved by 0.1 per cent.

This increase followed a fall of 0.4 per cent over December 2018, and a 0.5 per cent increase in November off the back of successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events.

“While January hasn’t proved to be a ground-breaking month by any stretch, on the plus side it does indicate that retail is slowly picking itself up and heading in the right direction,” National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said.

Department store spending saw a 2.1 per cent decline over the month, while spending on clothing, footwear and personal accessories dipped 0.3 per cent.

Food retailing and cafes, restaurants and takeaway services saw spending 0.3 per cent higher than the month prior, while ‘other retailing’, which brings together several industries such as pharmaceuticals, books and recreational goods, saw a jump of 0.7 per cent.

The increase in cafe spending could be indicative of consumers beginning to feel more comfortable spending on ‘little luxuries’, according to Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman.

“We hope this trend will continue to increase and spill into other retail categories across the retail sector,” Zimmerman said.

The NRA’s Lamb went on to point to the upcoming Federal Budget, stating the importance that the Government puts a focus on encouraging consumer spending.

“Measures such as tax cuts, infrastructure spending and initiatives that ease the burden on small businesses can all help improve the economy and assist retail in getting out of this sluggish phase it’s experiencing,” Lamb said.

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