November retail trade figures “a welcome result” but caution indicated
Monday 21 December 2020
The Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, said November data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing annual retail sales growth of 3.25% was “a welcome result” and a pleasing rebound after disappointing numbers in October, but warned caution was warranted.
Mr Zimmerman said today’s numbers vindicated the ARA’s optimism of a November rebound – driven by Click Frenzy, Black Friday, and Singles Day – and showed a recovery in retail spending that had long been anticipated, but warned bushfires now affecting large parts of Australia were yet to be felt during November.
“We’re pleased with what is a welcome result after several months of patchy retail trade, but I would suggest caution is indicated given the scale of the fire disasters affecting December and January,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“We’ve long thought interest rate cuts, tax rebates and minimum wage rises would spark a rise in spending at some point, and whilst it’s later than we’d hoped we’re nonetheless happy with a big lift in November,” he added.
Mr Zimmerman said the November figures suggested people were starting to stock up for Christmas, with Food (3.66% year-on-year growth) and especially Liquor (5.26%) consistent with preparations for festive celebrations.
“November also saw very strong annual growth in the Clothing, Footwear and Personal Accessories category (4.91%) and the best result for Department Stores (4.4%) we’ve seen since June 2016, and this also suggests Australians were already spending very strongly on presents during November,” he said.
Mr Zimmerman also pointed to Click Frenzy, Singles Day and Black Friday, which fell in November, and said today’s figures showed these initially online events were now benefiting traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers.
“Online retailing, which covers these events, actually fell back to some extent in November: this tells us that what were originally online sales are now actively bolstering sales for traditional retailers,” Mr Zimmerman said.
Mr Zimmerman noted that spending in the Cafes, Restaurants and Takeaway Food category – usually an indicator of consumer confidence – was particularly solid, recording 3.9% growth over the year to November.
Mr Zimmerman said that despite the encouraging numbers, a degree of caution looking ahead was prudent.
“During the time between the actual period these data sets cover and the time they’re publicly available, the flow of events obviously continues; and while today’s numbers are reasonably good, we know there’s potentially a big impact coming in the form of the bushfire crisis currently playing out across Australia,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“None of us know what December or January will look like – although you’d have to expect the fires to have some degree of impact on trading conditions when we actually see those numbers,” he added.
Mr Zimmerman said the ARA’s overwhelming concern about bushfires was the safety of people in affected areas.
“We feel desperately for those who have lost homes and businesses to bushfires, and of course there has also been a small number of people who have perished, which is so terribly sad,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“The ARA has put in place a number of initiatives to help provide support and assistance to people in affected areas, which we announced on Monday, and we will be looking to do more in this space if possible,” he said.
“I urge all Australians to support the families and communities who now face hardship as a result of this dreadful disaster: sticking together is one of our defining characteristics as Australians, and now is the time for all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity,” Mr Zimmerman concluded.
Monthly Retail Growth (October 2019 – November 2019, seasonally adjusted)
Department stores (3.45%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (3.08%), Household goods retailing (1.17%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.95%), Food retailing (0.53%), and Other retailing (-0.52%).
South Australia (1.37%), Queensland (1.20%), Victoria (1.10%), New South Wales (0.70%), Australian Capital Territory (0.67%), Western Australia (0.46%), Tasmania (0.42%), and Northern Territory (-0.19%).
Overall month-on-month sales growth: 0.91%.
Year-on-Year Retail Growth (December 2018 – November 2019, seasonally adjusted)
Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (4.91%), Department stores (4.40%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (3.90%), Food retailing (3.66%), Other retailing (1.97%), and Household goods retailing (1.62%).
Queensland (5.45%), Tasmania (5.29%), Northern Territory (3.52%), Australian Capital Territory (3.23%), Western Australia (3.15%), South Australia (3.01%), Victoria (2.87%), and New South Wales (2.13%).