Further evidence has been released showing the struggling reality of the retail sector.

The latest Commonwealth Bank business sales indicator (BSI) reported that retail sales slumped 1.4 per cent in April – the biggest fall of all industry sectors recorded – compared to the BSI dropping 0.2 per cent in trend terms.

The weakness in retail stores is further highlighted when the sector is removed from the broader BSI results. Excluding retail stores, the BSI recorded a 0.3 per cent gain in April, a similar rise to March and the strongest gain since November 2009.

According to Matt Comyn, executive general manager, Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank, the latest results were a clear demonstration of the patchy performance of the Australian economy.

“The retail sector is clearly struggling,” Comyn said.

“Whilst the difficulty being faced by the sector is nothing new, this latest result is yet another blow for an industry which is facing a growing set of challenges.”

Comyn blames the increasing growth of online retailing, coupled with the effects of a strong Australian dollar and slower consumers spending.

The strongest lift in spending in trend terms was once again in the Amusement & Entertainment sector (includes motion picture theatres, bowling alleys, golf courses and video stores), up 1.2 per cent, followed by Clothing Stores and Utilities (both up 0.9 per cent).

In addition to Retail Stores, Mail Order & Telephone Order Providers recorded negative growth (down 1.3 per cent), followed by Automobiles & Vehicle sales (includes services stations as well as car and boat dealers, tyre and auto parts stores) which was again weaker, with sales down 0.4 per cent.

The BSI is a key measure of economy-wide spending, tracking the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank point-of-sale terminals, a sample of approximately 40 per cent of the Australian market.