Signs of improvements are showing after the Australian Bureau of Statistics retail trade figures show that Australian retail turnover rose 0.9 per cent in March 2012, following a rise of 0.3 per cent in February 2012.

In volume terms, turnover rose 1.8 per cent in the March quarter 2012, seasonally adjusted, following a rise of 0.5 per cent in the December quarter 2011

The largest contributor to the rise was food retailing (0.9 per cent) followed by cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (2.0 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (1.6 per cent). Even department stores were up 0.7 per cent while other retailing and house good retailing recorded 0.5 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.

By state NSW (1.2 per cent), Victoria (1.3 per cent) and Western Australia (1.2 per cent) were the largest contributors.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said the boost in retail trade might be an early sign of recovery for the sector, however relief for both business and consumers was still needed as figures showed weak growth in key discretionary categories.

“Despite some welcome news of an increase in consumer spend, the category breakdown shows confidence hasn’t extended to discretionary spend, with year on year growth across the clothing and footwear (0.4%) as well as department store (1.4%) categories still weak and below the rate of inflation,” he said.

“Growth in the food retailing categories (0.9% and 2%) show food is buoying up the sector, and to a lesser extent household goods are also contributing to the boost with some below CPI yearly growth of 0.6 per cent for March.

“Retailers will be looking for further interest rate cuts over the coming months with even more taxes and charges expected to hit both retail and consumer confidence.”