By Aimee Chanthadavong

After reporting on the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Retail Trade figures, retailbiz was able to catch up with ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman.

He told retailbiz that based on the results released by the ABS, it’s no guarantee that sales will continue to grow but it gives the retail sector some hope.

“It’s the first glimmer of light and glimmer of purses,” he said. “It’s particularly welcomed and we [the ARA] hope for continued growth.”

Zimmerman explained that sales in the restaurant and catering industry are always the first to benefit in the retail sector.

“We have noticed this trend and it’s not unusual as it has happened in the past whereby the economy is improving and the restaurant and catering industry are always where it picks up first.”

In the meantime, spending in department stores are currently dropping due to the flux period between the winter and summer season.

 “It’s a fairly tough time for department stores because there has been an increase in sales in the last few months due to winter sales and now it’s in a flux period because summer stock is just coming in,” Zimmerman said.

At the same time, pressure is being felt by smaller retailers with rent becoming a prominent issue.

“The capacity to compete, the Fair Work system and working capital and cash flow management are three things that independent retailers are concerned about,” he said.

“But increases in rent are hefty in this economic climate as we’ve been advised that retailers are seeing 15 to 20 per cent increases.”