By Aimee Chanthadavong

The ABS Retail Trade figures for September 2013 showed the Australian retail turnover rose 0.8 per cent, seasonally adjusted, following a 0.5 per cent rise in the previous year.

This turnover was driven mainly by an increase in sales in department stores (2.8 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (2.5 per cent) and other retailing (1.6 per cent), as well as cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.6 per cent) and food retailing (0.4 per cent).

The only struggling category for September was household good retailing (-0.4 per cent).

Over the longer term, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing is the strongest contributor to growth (up 1.3 per cent in trend terms).

Retailers have taken the September results as a possible hopeful indication of how tradiing will be during the all-important upcoming Christmas period.

National Retail Association (NRA) chief executive Trevor Evans said the results are the best consecutive monthly results since the announcement of the Federal Election date back in February.

“We saw the August result as hopefully the beginning of a recovery in business and consumer confidence, as Australia neared the end of a Federal Election campaign that had effectively run throughout the entire 2013 calendar year,” he said.

“This great result for September is further evidence that consumers and businesses are relishing the end of the uncertainty around federal politics.

"There are signs that confidence is returning, and we are very hopeful this will continue through to Christmas as retailers now enter their most important trading period.”

Similarly, Margy Osmond, Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) CEO, said the result shows consumers have responded positively to the election of a new government with a clear mandate.

“The result builds on a recent run of positive numbers with sales now recording five months of gains,” she said.

“Today’s result is the biggest rise since February and provides the sector with positive momentum heading into the Christmas trading period.’

Turnover rose in all states expected for Western Australia, which fell -0.2 per cent. Over the longer term, Victoria was the strongest contributor to growth up 0.5 per cent in trend terms.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said there is still however scope for improvement that can help deliver further growth.

“With indications that the anecdotal post-election boost for retail and consumer confidence may have eased off in October, it is important for the new government to rapidly implement its program of tax cuts and economic reform to continue to boost confidence<” he said.

“The opposition and minor parties should also support the mandate to cut taxes such as the carbon tax.

“What the retail sector needs now is for the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut interest rates tomorrow, as this would encourage consumers to let go of their purse strings as they begin their Christmas shopping.”