Retail sales rebound in January, but underlying growth is stalling

Media Release

Australian retail turnover rose 1.1 per cent (seasonally adjusted) in January 2024, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This follows a fall of 2.1 per cent in December 2023 and a rise of 1.5 per cent in November 2023.

Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, said: "The rebound in January follows a sharp fall in December when consumers pulled back on spending after taking advantage of Black Friday sales in November. Retail turnover is now back at a similar level to September 2023. 

“Retail turnover was unchanged in trend terms in January. This means there has been no growth in retail turnover when we look through the volatility of the past few months. 

“Rather, spending patterns have shifted because of changes in seasonality around Black Friday as consumers took advantage of discounting in response to cost of living pressures.”

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 rebounded in all the non-food industries following last month’s falls. Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (2.4 per cent) had the largest rise.

This was followed by household goods retailing (2.3 per cent) and department stores (1.7 per cent). Other retailing (1.7 per cent) also rose and was the only non-food industry to see a larger rise in January than fall in turnover in December (-0.5 per cent). 

For food-related industries, cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services turnover rose 1.3 per cent following four consecutive monthly falls.

“Spending in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services was boosted this month by large sporting events lifting turnover more than usual. Bumper crowds for the Australian tennis summer and the Big Bash League boosted sales in catering services, which are part of this industry,” Mr Dorber said.

Food retailing (-0.1 per cent) was the only industry to fall after having been the only one to see a rise last month. 

Retail turnover rose across the country, with most jurisdictions up by 1.0 per cent or more following many large falls in December. Tasmania was the only exception, rising 1.3 per cent after a flat December.

More information on the January reference period will be released on 6 March 2024.

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 August 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 with the larger than usual revisions reflecting improvements in the data as the seasonal pattern around Black Friday sales and impacts on spending in surrounding months becomes 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.
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