Retail trade is starting to pick up with the latest ABS retail trade figures revealing the Australian retail turnover rose 1.3 per cent in February 2013, seasonally adjusted, following a rise of 1.2 per cent in January 2013.

The largest contributor to the rise in February 2013 was food retailing (1.1 per cent) followed by household goods retailing (1.6 per cent), other retailing (1.6 per cent), cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (1.3 per cent), department stores (1.6 per cent) and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (1.2 per cent).

Over the longer term, the largest contributor to growth was household goods retailing (up 0.7 per cent in trend terms) followed by food retailing (up 0.3 per cent in trend terms).

According to Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman this is a good sign for the sector, but it’s clear the market still faces significant challenges.

“As reported in recent days, home ownership and household deposit rates have increased over the past 12 months as consumers choose to consolidate rather than spend,” he said.

“The minimal rise in retail sales figures emphasises further the ARA’s stand that the Fair Work Commission hand down a realistic and manageable minimum wage increase of no more than $5.80 for the retail sector.

“Most SME retailers are reliant on a minimum wage workforce and any move to increase wages during this time of low consumer confidence and low to negative growth will only result in further job losses.

“Continued delays in reducing the low value import threshold from the current $1000 limit is also impacting on jobs in the retail sector.”

The state which was the largest contributor to the rise was New South Wales (1.4 per cent), followed by Queensland (1.9 per cent), Victoria (1.1 per cent), Western Australia (1.8 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (2.6 per cent). These rises were partially offset by falls in South Australia (-0.4 per cent), the Northern Territory (-1.4 per cent) and Tasmania (-0.6 per cent). Over the longer term, Queensland was the strongest contributor to growth (up 0.6 per cent in trend terms).