Retail sales in detail

By Leith van Onselen

As noted by Houses & Holes earlier today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning released the retail trade data for the month of August, which registered a seasonally-adjusted 0.2% increase over the month, half the consensus forecast of 0.4% growth. Over the year, retail sales increased by 3.2%. There were no revisions to the prior month’s results.

Below is a chart summarising the monthly and annual growth rates by industry on a seasonally adjusted basis:

As you can see, the increase in sales was driven by department stores, which has experienced a torrid run of late. Last month, department stores were going backwards, with sales down -5.2% over the year. However, following this month’s 6.9% increase, department store sales are now up by 3.4% over the year. There wasn’t a lot of movement in the other categories, with some falling slightly and some rising a little over the month.

At the state level, retail sales were strong in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, but weak elsewhere over the month. On an annual basis, Western Australia has dominated sales growth, with the ACT, Queensland and the Northern territory also performing solidly. By contrast, the southern states have experienced more subdued sales growth, with Tasmania performing particularly badly (see below chart).

The below chart shows just how sudued retail sales are relative to recent history. Retail sales growth decelerated sharply in late-2009. And despite a recent bounce, courtesy of the one-off compensation payments for the introduction of the carbon tax, they remain well down relative to the prior decade’s growth rates:

Twitter: Leith van Onselen. Leith is the Chief Economist of Macro Investor, Australia’s independent investment newsletter covering trades, stocks, property and yield. Click for a free 21 day trial.