Yesterday's retail trade figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the clean need for urgent economic reforms and to boost productivity, the National Retail Association said today.

CEO Trevor Evans said the July figures, which showed a 0.2 per cent increase in trend terms but a 0.1 per cent fall seasonally adjusted, showed the steady growth in retail of the past two years may be waning.

“Today’s figures reflect the results for the overall economy released yesterday, which show that Australia is still growing but not as strongly as it could be,” Mr Evans said.

“This clearly points to the need for urgent reform across the economy – in taxation, in government spending, workplace relations and in productivity measures.

“We can no longer sit on our hands and just hope for a continuation of the strong economic performance that Australians have become used to in recent decades.

“On behalf of retailers – a major employment sector in the economy – we call on the Federal and State Governments to redouble their efforts to boost productivity and to create the conditions that will allow businesses to thrive and employment to flourish.

“And just as importantly, we urge the Federal Opposition and Senate crossbenchers to step out of the way of much needed reforms to the Federal Budget, to workplace laws and to taxation measures.  All Australians will suffer if this does not occur.”

The ABS found that consumer spending grew in categories including clothing, footwear and personal accessories, department stores (1.3 per cent) and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.3 per cent). There were falls in household goods retailing (-1.9 per cent) and other retailing (-0.6 per cent). Food retailing was unchanged for the month.

In seasonally adjusted terms Queensland (0.3 per cent), Western Australia (0.3 per cent) and the Northern Territory (0.1 per cent) enjoyed increases in spending, while New South Wales (-0.2 per cent), South Australia (-0.8 per cent), Victoria (-0.2 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (-0.2 per cent) all went backwards.  Tasmania was unchanged.

Online retail turnover contributed 3.1 per cent to total retail turnover in original terms.

Mr Evans said the 0.1 per cent fall in seasonally adjusted spending was not surprising, given the very strong rise of 0.6 per cent in June.

“Previous figures have shown that the stimulus measures in the Federal Budget clearly had a significant impact on spending in May and June,” Mr Evans said.

“It’s to be expected that some spending would have been brought forward into June to take advantage of the tax breaks.  The figures will hopefully return to normal in coming months.

“But that doesn’t mean that we can afford to do nothing on the economic reform front.

“Today’s numbers are a very clear warning that the good times won’t last forever, and we need to act now.”

The NRA is Australia's largest and most diverse retail industry organisation, and has been representing the interests of the retail, fast food and broader service sector for almost 100 years.