Dominique Lamb CEO National Retail Association

The positive signs for the end-of-year trading period continue to pop up, with two more pieces of data pointing to a merry Christmas for Australian retail. Early last week, the ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating showed households are feel positive about their finances.

Consumer confidence levels were well above the average for the last two years, with expectations of economic conditions in the next 12 months and the next five years both improving. This measure is closely tracked by the Reserve Bank, and may influence the bank’s monetary policy into 2017.

On Friday last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its trade data for October. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, retail turnover rose by 0.5 per cent during the month. This follows a 0.6 per cent increase in September, which gives us good reason to think that growth in retail trade may finally be coming back to the levels we came to consider as normal before the global financial crisis.

The growth in spending lends weight to the consumer sentiment figures. That is to say, shoppers have clearly been voting with their wallets in the final months of 2016, which gives us good reason to believe the consumer sentiment figures to be accurate. And taken together, the two measures point to continuing buoyancy in the retail sector leading into 2017.

The ABS release also revealed that every single state and territory enjoyed sales growth, with Queensland leading the way. Food retailing (0.6 per cent), household goods retailing (0.7 per cent) and other retailing (0.8 per cent) were the best-performing sectors. Click here to see the NRA’s media statement following the retail trade figures.

On a more concerning note, a number of state or territory Governments have introduced new public holidays, mostly without any serious consultation with businesses. Victoria will now have a public holiday on Christmas Day, as well as a second Christmas public holiday because December 25 falls on a weekend. The Northern Territory has announced “half public holidays” for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve after 7pm. This measure is also being considered in Queensland, which has also just announced Easter Sunday as a public holiday.

These unilateral decisions by governments severely impact small retailers, particularly when they are announced at relatively short notice when rosters and staffing levels are already being worked out. But as well as adding to the wage bill (or prompting retailers simply to cut staffing levels or close their doors), these sudden changes can impact on the ability of businesses to open their doors when they want to. The NRA will continue to campaign for a fair go for employers, but also for a fair hearing. It’s not reasonable that states spring these surprises on business owners and expect them to simply pick up the tab and not complain.

I hope you have a very successful week.

Dominique Lamb