Following the release of the latest consumer sentiment report by Westpac and the Melbourne Institute, Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) CEO Margy Osmond has commented that sentiment is important but it’s sales that determine the retail success.

The Westpac Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment showed consumer sentiment increased 2 per cent to 110.5 in March.

According to Osmond, sentiment does not always count, particularly in the retail sector where improved consumer confidence failed to reflect the results in Australian spending.

“The increase in sentiment is welcome and we hope it indicates the Reserve Bank of Australia’s moves to lower the cash rate are starting to have an impact on Aussie family budgets. However, it appears households are still choosing the bank as the best place to put their money,” she said.

“There were, however, good indicators in terms of general feeling towards the economy. Aussie families increased their view of family finances versus a year ago by 3.9% and their outlook into the future also increased – up 3.1 per cent.

“Another bright spot in this report is that fewer people are looking to pay down debt – that has fallen to 18% from 22% a year ago – indicating people are becoming more comfortable with debt levels and may again move to spend.

“But retailers might not see a big boost in retail figures in March – despite improved views of the economy and personal finances, the index of whether ‘now is a good time to buy a major household item’ dropped 1.6 per cent.

“Despite a good start to the year with January retail figures up 0.9% retailers will remain cautiously optimistic about the prospect of recovery in 2013. However, there are some good signs in today’s confidence figures to indicate sentiment might not be all that counts, but it’s a step in the right direction for the sector.”