Ballooning wages bills, energy costs and insurance premiums are driving a pessimistic outlook for Australia’s retail businesses, promoting calls for the Government to put the cost-of-trading on the Federal Budget agenda.

The National Retail Association today released its 2024 Retail Sentiment Report, which has revealed deep concerns among business owners for trading conditions, sales growth, and profitability.

Among the key findings of the survey:

  • 42 per cent of all respondents expect business performance to be worse than last year.
  • Only 23 per cent expect sales to be better in 2024, while 44 per cent expect things to be worse, including 8 per cent who expect significantly worse trading conditions.
  • 55 per cent expect a decline in year-on-year profits in the coming 12 months, and only 15 per cent expect profits to grow.
  • Cost of doing business underpins these results with 77 per cent projecting overheads to worsen.
  • Business owners cite wage costs, energy costs and insurance premiums as the three biggest constraints on their retail business’ success.

National Retail Association Director Rob Godwin called for a Budget that put downward pressure on energy and insurance costs so retailers could keep more of what they earn.

“High interest rates and low consumer confidence have pushed retailers into a cost-of-trading crisis, putting Australia’s second-largest employer at risk,” Mr Godwin said.

“The May Budget gives the Federal Government the opportunity to address skyrocketing energy and insurance premiums and take excess pressure off Australian businesses, the lifeblood of our economy.

“Supporting businesses in this Budget means supporting millions of Australian jobs – particularly of lower skilled and entry-level workers most of whom are struggling with cost-of-living,” he said.

Mr Godwin also expressed particular concern for regional and rural businesses that are especially suffering from poor Christmas trading last year.

“Forty-nine per cent of regional businesses have reported struggling with inflated transport and logistics costs,” he said.

“Regional and rural areas have also been adversely affected by low ecommerce adoption rates, (5 per cent vs 18 per cent for metro) and limited staffing options.

“We urge the Government to address high transportation costs and the increased complexity of the supply chain by providing funding mechanisms that support regionally located businesses,” he said.

According to the report, 29 per cent of retailers have cut advertising costs, and reduced spending on customer acquisition and retention, which will have a knock-on effect for manufacturers and suppliers in Australia.

“If the Government steps up for businesses in May, retailers could start investing in sustainability, wages and innovation. Keeping businesses competitive is another way to reduce inflation.

“However, if retailers are worried about their futures, concerns are certain to flow through to hiring and investment decisions, and that’s bad news for the entire Australian economy.”

You can find the 2024 Retail Sentiment Report here.


The National Retail Association represents more than 60,000 stores across Australia. It has been serving businesses in the retail and fast-food sectors for close to 100 years.

For more information, phone the National Retail Association media unit on 0467 792 013.