Wary consumers are spending less money and according to Myer boss Bernie Brookes the only way to keep them spending is through interest-free promotions and giveaway sales.

While there was an increase in retail sales in March, this had more to do with higher food and petrol prices than a surge in spending.

As reported on www.news.com.au, in the past month, interest-free promotions have been a huge hit for Myer said Brookes, as it worked to try to counter the downturn in household spending, which had resulted from four interest rate rises since August.

While interested rates are expected to remain unchanged for now, Brookes said there were more tough times ahead for retailers, with shoppers likely to keep their spending to a minimum for the rest of this year.

"April was better than March in terms of sales but it was still patchy," he said. "Interest-free offers will be the retailing trend of 2008 as it allows people to buy now and pay later. Any sales increase will be driven by promotional activity."

The sales data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed monthly sales rose 0.5 per cent to $20.1 billion with the biggest increase caused by higher food prices. In the past year, the average family’s monthly food bill has jumped $139.