March retail sales rise 0.4%

Media Release

Australian retail turnover rose 0.4 per cent in March 2023, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This follows a 0.2 per cent rise in February 2023.

Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, said that while retail sales recorded a third straight rise in March, a pull-back in spending on discretionary goods has seen monthly turnover remain at a similar level to six months ago.

This month’s rise was driven by the combined growth in food-related spending, with rises in both cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (+1.5 per cent) and food retailing (+1.0 per cent).

“Food retailing has now recorded 13 consecutive monthly rises, largely driven by high food inflation,” Mr Dorber said.

“Businesses in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services are passing on their rising costs to consumers through price rises, while also benefitting from strong demand driven by the continued return of large-scale cultural and sporting events.”

“Spending on non-food retailing has slowed in response to interest rate rises and increased cost of living pressures. This follows increased spending during and immediately following much of the COVID-19 pandemic period.”

Of the non-food industries, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-1.0 per cent) had the largest fall, followed by household goods (-0.4 per cent) and department stores (-0.2 per cent). Other retailing remained relatively flat (0.0 per cent).

Retail turnover rose modestly across the states and territories, with most rises below 1.0 per cent. Queensland (+1.2 per cent) was the only state or territory to record a rise over 1.0 per cent, and this was a bounce back from a 0.4 per cent fall in February.

“The latest Consumer Price Index showed that while growth in inflation slowed in the March quarter, it remained at a high level. To see the effect of consumer prices on recent turnover growth, it will be important to look at quarterly retail sales volumes which we release next week,” Mr Dorber said.

Additional information on the March reference period, including quarterly price and volume data, will be released on 9 May 2023.

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

Media notes

  • All statistical figures in this media release are in seasonally adjusted terms.

  • Seasonal adjustment is the process of estimating and removing seasonal effects to allow comparison of data for adjacent months. See methodology for more details.
  • Revisions to seasonally adjusted estimates are due to the concurrent methodology for deriving seasonal factors. For further information, please read survey impacts and changes.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
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