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Retailers continue to grapple with tough market conditions as the latest retail sales figures show consumer confidence is waning.

Retail sales figures for April have sparked concern among retailers and prompted a push for “urgent” personal and business tax cuts.

The latest figures from the ABS show Australian retail turnover fell by 0.1 per cent in April.

The plunge is being attributed to a wage “crisis” and “election slowdown” – both of which are said to be hampering consumer confidence.

The decline has sparked a call from the National Retail Association (NRA) for the federal parliament to pass proposed tax cuts.

“Today’s ABS figures for April paint a sombre picture and demonstrate the need to boost Australians’ disposable incomes,” CEO of the NRA Dominique Lamb said.

“The Government went to the election promising tax cuts and has a mandate. The plunge in retail sales show the urgent need to put more money in the back pocket of all Australians.

Looking to specific categories, the biggest falls were in clothing, footwear and personal accessories which dropped by 1.2 per cent and Household goods fell by 0.9 per cent.

“There were certainly mixed results across the board both in individual categories and in how each state and territory performed,” Ms Lamb said.

“Having said all that, now that the federal election is out of the way we are optimistic about a return to certainty and with that a much-needed boost to consumer confidence. Should the RBA decide to cut interest rates when it meets later today, this should also encourage people to shop.”

The head of the Australian Retail Association (ARA) Russel Zimmerman said he hopes the figures will pick-up following the re-election of the Morrison Government.

“Today’s ABS retail trade figures were disappointing overall for April, coming off 3.51% year-on-year growth for March,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Call for wage rise

Just days after the Fair Work Commission announced a nationwide increase to the minimum wage, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is blaming the latest sales figures on a “wage crisis.”

Assistant Secretary of the ACTU Liam O’Brien on Tuesday said that six years of record low wage growth is continuing to cut into consumer spending.

“Working people are not getting the fair pay rises we need to stay ahead of crucial living costs like electricity, housing, gas and fuel. People are eating into their savings to cover their basic living costs.

“It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that we are seeing low consumer spending and retail sales when we are still near record low wage growth, and have been for six years.

“Cutting interest rates is not a silver bullet. We need to give working people the power they need to win real wage increases.”

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