While the two interest rates cuts were welcomed with open arms by retailers at the end of last year it didn’t change the attitudes of consumers as the latest ABS retail trade figures show that retail turnover in November 2011 was flat.

Remaining relatively unchanged (0.0 per cent), seasonally adjusted, following a rise of 0.2 per cent the previous month, the trade figures has been described as “disappointing” by  corporate retail bodies the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA).

Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing had the most detrimental impact where turnover fell -0.4 per cent followed by department stores dropping to -0.1 per cent.

ANRA CEO Margy Osmond said after four successive months of retail trade growth the results for November have put a slump in the possibility of trade improvement.

“The cold start to the summer is reflected in a 0.4% drop in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing nationally and in the great bargains in that category in the sales season. Department stores also went down -0.1% in the run up to the critical Christmas trading season. Even food retailing, consistently the strongest part of the sector, had a poor showing in November, with the 0.02% rise the weakest result since May 2011,” she said.

“Retailers reported a slow start to Christmas shopping and these figures are in line with that anecdotal evidence.

“All the indicators suggested November would see another positive figure for the sector – consumer confidence was up, there was a rate cut and strong employment rates. But poor summer weather and the continued troubles in Europe on the TV every night have prompted shoppers to keep their purse string firmly tied in fear of future problems closer to home.”

In spite of this, the 3.1 percent overall year-on-year growth continues to give retailers a reason to be hopeful for a successful Christmas trading period.
ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said the 3.1 percent boost compared to November 2010 showed the interest rate cut was what consumers needed to kick start their shopping for the season.

“Looking ahead to December we know most people leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute so coupled with December’s interest rate cut this will hopefully mean December trade fared better on the fashion front,” he said.