Consumer browsing shelves

Nationwide retail sales have today reached a record level as the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded the sector’s fifth consecutive month of growth.

The data for retail spending in May showed a 10.4 per cent increase over 12 months and 0.9 per cent increase for the month.

National Retail Association Chief Executive Dominique Lamb said it is a great result for the industry, which has been under pressure with rising supply costs, interest rates and wage and superannuation increases.

“This news is certainly welcome, although we do know that higher prices implemented, particular in food retailing and hospitality, has contributed to this growth,” Ms Lamb said.

Five out six sub-sectors recorded growth, with the exception of discretionary spending in the clothing, footwear and accessories sector falling 1.4 per cent.

Department stores had the strongest rise with 5.1 per cent, followed by cafes and restaurants and food retailing (1.8 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively), other retailing (1.5 per cent) and household goods (0.4 per cent).

“Despite cost of living and interest rates rises, consumers are still spending necessary items across food, department stores and household goods,” Ms Lamb said.

“But we are seeing less spent on personal items as consumers grapple with the state of the economy.

“The small businesses of the industry need to see more support from the government that promotes spending and the NRA will continue to advocate on this matter to our local and family-owned businesses back on track,” she said

Performance across states and territories was mixed, with New South Wales recording the largest increase in turnover (1.6 per cent) and Queensland recording the lowest fall in turnover (0.4 per cent).

Ms Lamb said the state and sector analysis showed that the strong results were not uniform across the country, and urged policy makers to keep in mind that the east coast is still recovering from floods and other areas from the absence of tourists.

“Some will feel the pain from the recent rate hike more sharply than others, and some will struggle to pay the additional superannuation and minimum wage rise coming into effect at the end of this week,” Ms Lamb said.

“Decision makers need to be aware that there are thousands of small businesses who are still doing it tough, even though some states and some sectors are thriving.”