Retail turnover weak, up only 0.1%

Media Release

Australian retail turnover rose 0.1 per cent in April 2024, according to seasonally adjusted figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This followed a 0.4 per cent fall in March 2024 and a 0.2 per cent rise in February 2024.

Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, said: “Underlying retail spending continues to be weak with a small rise in turnover in April not enough to make up for a fall in March.

“Since the start of 2024, trend retail turnover has been flat as cautious consumers reduce their discretionary spending.”

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 April. Other retailing (+1.6 per cent) had the largest rise this month, followed by household goods retailing (+0.7 per cent) and department stores (+0.1 per cent). 

Clothing, footwear, and personal accessory retailing (-0.7 per cent) fell.

“The relatively earlier Easter and the different timing of school holidays across the country meant we saw some added volatility in turnover in March and April,” Mr Dorber said. 

“Looking across the past two months, we see weak underlying spending in most parts of the retail industry.” 

Food-related spending was mixed with a fall in food retailing (-0.5 per cent), while there was a small rise in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (+0.3 per cent).

“The fall in food retailing is a partial reversal of last month’s rise of 0.8 per cent, where the earlier-than-usual Easter boosted spending, particularly on alcohol,” Mr Dorber said. 

“Retailers told us spending on alcohol dropped off as consumers brought purchases forward into March and because they are increasingly opting for cheaper alcoholic products.” 

Retail turnover growth was mixed across the country. New South Wales (+0.7 per cent) saw the largest rise, followed by South Australia (+0.5 per cent).

Please note: Retail turnover was relatively unchanged in April 2024 for Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

More information on the April reference period will be released on 4 June 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 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).
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  • Watch our data crash course especially for journalists to learn how to find, download and interpret our data. 
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