Retail Volumes Drop after 4 Consecutive Rises: Australia

Australian retail sales volumes fell 0.2 per cent in the December quarter 2022, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The fall in the December quarter follows a 0.3 per cent rise in the September quarter 2022.

Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, said: “Retail sales volumes fell for the first time since the September quarter 2021, with volumes falling across all non-food industries as consumers tightened discretionary spending in response to mounting cost of living pressures.”

Retail prices remain high, but price growth slowed to 1.1 per cent in December due to flat food retailing prices and additional discounting during Black Friday sales. This was the smallest rise in retail prices for 2022.”

The Consumer Price Index for the December quarter grew more than retail prices, reflecting the stronger price growth in services seen in the quarter.

Quarterly retail turnover, volume and price – seasonally adjusted percentage change from previous quarter

QuarterChain Volume Measures (%)Retail Prices (%)

Department stores had the largest volume fall (-2.9 per cent), followed by other retailing (-2.4 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-2.3 per cent) and household goods retailing (-2.0 per cent).

Growth in food-related volumes offset the weakness in discretionary spending. Food retailing (+2.1 per cent) had the largest rise, with volumes rising for the first time since COVID-19 Delta lockdowns ended. Despite growth in this quarter, food retailing volumes were down 1.4 per cent compared to December quarter 2021.

Food retailing price growth was flat this quarter, but prices remain high. Price falls for fruit and vegetables offset price rises elsewhere in the industry. This flat price result was lower than the rise in the CPI food and non-alcoholic beverages series due to scope differences between the two series. Food retailing prices reflect Supermarket, liquor and other specialised food store prices and excludes the CPI meals out and takeaway food series, which was a major component of the rise in the CPI index for food.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (+0.3 per cent) recorded a more subdued rise as trading conditions in the food-related industries continue to normalise.

Retail trade volumes fell consistently across the country, with five of the eight states and territories recording a fall.

Quarterly retail turnover, volume and price by state – seasonally adjusted percentage change from previous quarter

StateChain Volume Measures (%)Retail Prices (%)
New South Wales0.21.1
South Australia-0.11.1
Western Australia-0.31.3
Northern Territory-0.70.9
Australian Capital Territory0.10.7

Today’s release of Retail Trade follows the initial release of December monthly data, and provides additional information on the December reference period, including quarterly price and volume data.

“Given the volatile nature of spending in November and December, it is useful to look at the quarterly results which provide a clear indication of recent retail activity,” Mr Dorber said.

The fall in the December quarter sales volumes suggests that the robust post-lockdown spending that fuelled much of the growth in 2022 has come to an end.”

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