Summed up: What did we learn from the new retail report?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released August’s retail sales report on Friday October 5, offering a swathe of interesting information for those with their eye on the market.

Does that include you?

Here’s a quick guide to some of the main findings and themes from the latest report.

The basics.

Overall, after holding steady through July, retail sales in Australia have rebounded somewhat in August with a 0.3 per cent turnover rise. Spending in discretionary areas (non-food sales) was largely behind this increase.

In total, this brings spending up to $26.87 billion (seasonally adjusted), which is pretty much right on the money for what was expected.

Additionally, because of a solid 0.6 per cent drop in August of last year, this monthly increase brought the annual growth sales up 3.8 per cent, which is the fastest increase reported since May 2017.

Industry break down.

In the ABS press release, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys Ben James explained that “there were rises in five of the six industries”.

At the forefront were department stores with growth of 0.9 per cent to $1.56 billion, although it’s important to remember that July’s figures saw a drop of 1.8 per cent. This was followed by cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services, which saw an increase of 0.7 per cent. Other areas that saw improvement were; clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, household goods, and other retailing. The only area that remained the same was food retailing.

While it’s good to see increases, there are analysts out there reminding us that August’s growth needs to be taken in context, and just because July’s figures were flat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that August’s figures have signaled a major turnaround.

When speaking with the AAP, the Chief Economist at BIS Oxford Economics stated that that while we can expect the market to continue to grow, it won’t be moving quickly.

“It should still grow, but below historical averages as a result from the competition from e-retailing and pressure on households, which aren’t going to go away in the near future,” she explained.

What happened in retail trade in the states and territories?

The ABS continues to break down their data, offering us location-specific data so you can see how your region has fared throughout August.

Again in seasonally adjusted terms, there were six areas that saw rises in August. These were New South Wales (0.5 per cent), Victoria (0.2 per cent), South Australia (0.8 per cent), Queensland (0.1 per cent), Tasmania (0.6 per cent), and the Australian Capital Territory (0.2 per cent). The Northern Territory saw the only drop at -1.3 per cent, while Western Australia remained unchanged.

Overall, it’s good news from the retail report. However, as evidenced by a lacklustre stock market response and general ho-hum comments from analysts, this slow growth is certainly nothing to be sniffed at, but to be expected all the same.

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