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The retail trade figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today revealed that sales for January remained sluggish but were an improvement on the December 2017 slump.

The ABS figures show that retail turnover rose by 0.1 per cent seasonally adjusted in January, following a drop of 0.5 per cent in December last year.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said that while there was an increase, retail sales were still below what was expected.

“The 0.1 per cent increase is obviously an improvement on the December slump of 0.5 per cent but it is still well below the forecasts indicating that the increase would be closer to 0.4 per cent,” Ms Lamb said.

“Today’s figures are not cause for panic, but they do show that retail is experiencing a sluggish start to 2018 and it is therefore vital that measures are in place over the coming months that are conducive to strong retail sales.

“For instance, there need to be trading hours’ laws in place that reflect the needs

and wants of consumers in 2018 and penalty rates need to strike the right balance between a wage that is both fair and affordable.”

Later today the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will hand down its decision on interest rates and it is likely that the official cash rate will remain the same.

“Most analysts are predicting interest rates to remain on hold at 1.5 per cent and today’s retail figures should almost certainly guarantee that will be the case,” Ms Lamb said.

“For a sector such as retail, it is crucial that consumer confidence is as high as possible and maintaining record low interest rates can only assist retail sales in coming months.”