Ben Dorber, head of retail statistics with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), said January’s rise followed a 4 per cent month-on-month fall in December and 1.7 per cent rise in November.
“Looking through this volatility shows that turnover is at a similar level to September 2022, and on average, growth has been flat over the past few months,” he said.
“November, December and January are the most seasonal months of the year, with retail activity heavily affected by the Christmas period and January holidays. This has been heightened by an increase in the popularity of Black Friday sales and growing cost of living pressures combining to drive a change in usual consumer spending patterns.”
Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra described the figures as “a strong result” – especially for apparel retailers and department stores, who had worked hard to clear their summer inventory.
“There’s no doubt that an impressive Boxing Day trade certainly bolstered these sales, with the shoppathon a fixture on the January calendar.”
However, he cautioned that while the results were impressive, the cost of doing business and gross margins for many retailers remains a serious concern.
Significant year-on-year sales increases were recorded by cafes, restaurants and takeaway businesses – up by 26.3 per cent – clothing and footwear – up by 17.5 per cent – and department stores (up 16.6 per cent).
“The sales recorded by restaurants and cafes are particularly strong,” said Zahra. “It is clear the appetite for dining out has been boosted after the challenges of the pandemic.”
The only retail category to show a decline in year-on-year sales was household goods, down by 1.1 per cent, reflecting record sales during the pandemic when all things at home were in hot demand, said Dorber.