ABS December 2016 trade figures delivers steady Christmas growth for retailers (3% growth year-on-year)

Monday 6 February 2017:The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) believes the December 2016 retail trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) illustrate a positive Christmas performance for retailers with a 3% growth year-on-year (seasonally adjusted).

ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman, said this steady growth compliments the 3% year-on year growth in November 2016 as many families across Australia started purchasing their Christmas gifts early.

“This moderate growth in December sales is a positive sign for the industry and we remain hopeful that the ARA and Roy Morgan predicted pre-Christmas sales figure of $48.1 billion will be achieved once we finalise the numbers,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Although December 2016 sales showed no increase over November 2016 trade figures, Mr Zimmerman said the industry’s annual Christmas performance remains stable and the uplift in discretionary spend is exactly what the industry would expect.

As always, a number of categories saw a significant surge over the Christmas period. Clothing, Footwear and Personal Accessory Retailing lead the categories growing at 7.32% year-on-year, followed closely by Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods (5.33% year-on-year).

“Even Newspaper and Book Retailing has shown a positive uplift from -6% during November 2016 trading, to an optimistic 0.91% growth due to many shoppers filling their Christmas stockings with popular book titles last year”, Mr Zimmerman said.

“We’ve seen a slight decrease in takeaway food services, which usually demonstrates strong growth, though we’ve also seen cafés and restaurants up 2.4% as more shoppers spent their holidays out and about enjoying their time with families and friends.”

The official closure of Masters during December took its toll on the Hardware category (1.76% year-on-year) down from 10.15% in November 2016 figures.

“We have seen an expected decrease in hardware figures temporarily, but now with reduced discounting and strong home price growth we can expect positive figures moving forward,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Though Department Store figures are still negative (-2.94% year-on-year), they are showing signs of marginal improvement. The category is making a gradual recovery from a downturn attributed to the recent restructure of a number of prominent department store retailers.

The states showing a healthy year-on-year growth include Tasmania (4.40%), South Australia (3.92%), New South Wales (3.37%) and Queensland (3.42%). While Victoria (2.96%), Australian Capital Territory (2.83%), Northern Territory (1.49%) and Western Australia (0.85%) aren’t leading the pack, they still demonstrated a positive growth over the December trading period.

In terms of online spend for December, the NAB Online Retail Sales Index indicates that e-commerce sales increased 10.4% year-on-year, with takeaway food and taking the lion’s share of growth on a category basis at 5.5% year-on-year.

“With online retail making up 7% of all retail sales, it’s double digit growth year-on-year is not surprising as e-commerce retailing is a key contributor to the retail industry as a whole,” Mr Zimmerman said.

MONTHLY RETAIL GROWTH (November 2016 – December 2016 seasonally adjusted)

Household goods retailing (-2.3%), Other retailing (-0.2%), Food retailing (0.5%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (1.4%), Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.2%) and Department stores (0.3%). Total sales (-0.1%).

Northern Territory (1.1%), South Australia (1.2%), Australian Capital Territory (-0.7%), Victoria (-0.4%), Tasmania (0.5%), Western Australia (0.6%), New South Wales (-0.3%) and Queensland (0.0%).

YEAR-ON-YEAR RETAIL GROWTH (December 2015 – December 2016 seasonally adjusted)

Household goods retailing (0.94%), Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (5.15%), Food retailing (2.89%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (7.32%), Other retailing (4.27%) and Department stores (-2.94%). Total sales (3.02%).

New South Wales (3.37%), South Australia (3.93%), Tasmania (4.40%), Victoria (2.96%), Australian Capital Territory (2.83%), Western Australia (0.86%), Queensland (3.42%) and Northern Territory (1.50%).


For interview opportunities with ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman call: The ARA Media Line T: 0439 612 556 E:media@retail.org.au

About the Australian Retailers Association:

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the retail industry’s peak representative body representing Australia’s $300 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. The ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 5,000 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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