Bargain chasing boosts retail sales in May

Media Release

Australian retail turnover rose 0.6 per cent in May 2024, according to seasonally adjusted figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This followed a 0.1 per cent rise in April 2024 and a 0.4 per cent fall in March 2024.

Robert Ewing, ABS head of business statistics, said: “Retail turnover was boosted this month by watchful shoppers taking advantage of early end-of-financial year promotions and sales events.

“Retail businesses continue to rely on discounting and sales events to stimulate discretionary spending, following restrained spending in recent months.

“Despite the seasonally adjusted rise, underlying spending remains stagnant with retail turnover flat in trend terms. Compared to May 2023, trend is only up 1.5 per cent.”

Trend estimates from March 2020 to June 2022 are not available due to the degree of disruption and volatility caused by COVID-19. Trend estimates throughout the pandemic period are likely to be unhelpful and potentially misleading for users in interpreting underlying trend in retail activity.

Turnover in most non-food related industries rose in May. 

Clothing, footwear, and personal accessory retailing had the largest rise (+1.6 per cent) following two consecutive falls in April and March. 

Household goods retailing (+1.1 per cent) and other retailing (+0.2 per cent) also rose, while department stores fell (-0.9 per cent). 

“Many retailers started end-of-financial year sales early, offering larger discounts than usual and noted that shoppers remain price-sensitive in response to persistent cost-of-living pressures,” Mr Ewing said. 

Food-related spending was mixed, with a rise in food retailing (+0.7 per cent) and a small fall in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (-0.1 per cent).

The growth in food retailing was driven by a large rise in liquor retailing (+6.1 per cent), after a large fall in April (-7.4 per cent). 

“People appear to have returned to usual purchasing habits after opting for cheaper alcoholic products in March, stocking up more than usual in the lead up to Easter, resulting in a lower growth rate in April,” Mr Ewing said. 

“Large cultural events continue to impact cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services, with the fall in May a reversal of increased spending associated with LIV Golf Adelaide and the AFL Gather Round in South Australia last month.”

Retail turnover rose across most of the states and territories. 

Western Australia (+1.3 per cent) and Victoria (+1.2 per cent) had the largest rises as the only jurisdictions to record growth over 1.0 per cent. 

“Turnover growth in Western Australian has been lifted by the restoration of the Trans-Australian Railway and Eyre Highway freight routes. These were shut due to major flooding in March negatively impacting the supply of retail goods,” Mr Ewing said.

New South Wales (-0.1 per cent) and South Australia (-0.1 per cent) were the only jurisdictions to have a fall this month, having recorded the largest rises in April.

The ABS would like to thank businesses for their continued support in responding to our surveys.

Media notes

  • A media statement on Thursday 23 November 2023 announced that the ABS would be ceasing the publication of Retail Trade, Australia in July 2025. For more information, please visit the Future cessation of the Retail Business Survey and Retail Trade Publication webpage.
  • Revisions to seasonally adjusted estimates are due to concurrent methodology, which reflects improvements in the data as changes in the seasonal pattern become clearer and distinct from irregular events. For further information, please refer to the article released in November explaining the effect of changes in the seasonality of retail turnover and the seasonality in retail turnover section of survey impacts and changes.
  • Seasonal adjustment is the process of estimating and removing seasonal effects to allow comparison of data for adjacent months. See methodology for more details.
  • The trend series attempts to measure underlying behaviour in retail activity. It is recommended that trend estimates be used alongside the seasonally adjusted headline measure to analyse and understand underlying activity in retail spending over the longer term. See methodology for more details on trend estimates.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our media release notification service to get notified of ABS media releases or publications upon their release.
  • Watch our data crash course, designed especially for journalists to learn how to find, download and interpret our data. 
Back to top of the page