Latest trade figures reveal the uphill struggle retailers face in 2024 if consumer sentiment remains low and trade continues to slow, despite Australia’s population boom.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today revealed spending in January rose 1.1 per cent following a stark drop of 2.1 per cent in December sales.

National Retail Association Director Rob Godwin said while data reveals that retail turnover has stalled, population growth and increasing costs of doing business show retail growth has actually fallen in real terms.

“At face value the 1.1 per cent increase looks positive for a traditionally slow month but factoring in Australia’s accelerating population and disappointing December sales reveal retail growth has actually gone backwards,” Mr Godwin said.

“Income from the festive season is usually the pot of gold at the end of a hard year for retailers, but poor sales have forced businesses to carry the cost of sales into January.

“Ahead of their two-day monetary policy meeting next week, retailers are calling on the Reserve Bank to move up their timeline on interest rate cuts as inflation eases and as spending stagnates,” he said.

The ABS monthly measure of inflation released yesterday revealed figures were steady in January, with annual price rises of 3.4 per cent at the same level as December.

“Clothing footwear and personal accessory retailing experienced the largest rise in spending at 2.4 per cent and department stores rose 1.7 per cent, no doubt aided by deep discounts,” he said.

“As Aussies return from overseas trips, food-related industries such as, cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services enjoyed a steady rise of 1.3 per cent.

“Food retailing, which fell by 0.1 per cent, was the only industry to experience a drop in sales.

“Victoria experienced one of the largest increases in retail turnover at 1.4 per cent. Queensland and NSW both saw a mediocre increase in trade at 0.9 and 0.8 per cent respectively.

“We encourage policymakers to consider the role of retail in maintaining Australia’s productivity as they manage the effects of inflation.

“Retail is the second largest employer in the country and needs urgent support so it can continue to offer employment opportunities to everyday Australians,” he said.

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, contact the National Retail Association media unit on 0467 792 013.