The 1.4 per cent decrease in retail turnover for June followed three consecutive months of steady growth and reflected the temperamental nature of consumer willingness to spend during the current economic climate.
Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said June retail trade (NSW 0.1 per cent, VIC -1.3 per cent, QLD -3.5 per cent, SA -1.5 per cent, WA -1.8 per cent, TAS -2.1 per cent, NT -2.8 per cent, ACT -1.6 per cent) was indicative of the sort of patchy recovery retailers should expect for the next few months.
"Chain volume measures actually increased 1.3 per cent for the June quarter due to heavy discounting and strong retail trade growth in April and May,” said Zimmerman.
Retail sales growth has been sporadic for most of the year with January, March, April and May showing steady growth but February and June reporting decreases.
"This is a confusing time for consumers, who are adjusting to increased discretionary spend after successive interest rate cuts and government stimulus packages, but who are also wary the tough times are not done and dusted.
"Over the next few months consumers will continue to display these inconsistent spending patterns by loosening the purse strings in some areas and some months but tightening them in others,” he said.
As the only retail category to report an increase in trade at 2.9 per cent growth, the household goods sector benefited threefold with consumers continuing to spend their government stimulus packages on bigger ticket items, first home owners taking advantage of government grants and furnishing new homes, and consumers investing in heating for the colder months.
A better result was expected for clothing and soft goods retailing (-7.4 per cent) and department stores (-8.8 per cent) with heavy discounts during the June stocktake sales.
“Interestingly, volume measures for both of these sectors have increased during the June quarter (2.4 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively) reflecting signs of consumers taking advantage of heavy discounting for most of the June quarter.
"Retailers remain optimistic about improved growth in the September quarter with the mitigating factor for economic recovery being employment. However, recovery will be patchy across sectors with retailers looking forward to more growth, but with some slow trade in the months ahead," said Zimmerman.