August retail sales show modest growth, driven by food

Australian retail sales increased 1.5% year-on-year in August as food, cafe, restaurant and takeaway spending again offset discretionary spending declines.

According to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), shoppers spent more than $35.4 billion across the country in August.

The most significant year-on-year sales increases came from cafes, restaurants, and takeaway (up 8.0%) and food (up 3.5%).

Clothing, footwear and accessories rebounded from decline in July, up 1.4% in August. Department stores on the other hand recorded a decline (down 0.6%) while other retailing recorded very modest growth (up 0.1%).

Household goods again recorded the biggest decline (down 6.6%), marking eight consecutive months of negative growth.

Most states and territories recorded growth year-on-year, led by ACT (up 5.5%), Western Australia (up 4.0%), Northern Territory (up 2.8%), South Australia (up 2.6%), Victoria (up 1.9%), New South Wales (up 0.6%) and Queensland (up 0.3%).

Tasmania recorded negative growth, year-on-year (down 1.0%).

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra said consistent spending on essentials like food, café, restaurants and takeaway made retail’s performance in August look more favourable than reality.

“As food sales continue to grow off the back of unavoidable price increases, most other categories are suffering consistent spending declines,” Mr Zahra said.

“Takeaway food remains popular amongst Australians, particularly fast-food options, as they can often be a more affordable and easier alternative to feed a family.

“Clothing, footwear and accessories experienced a slight resurgence from July, likely as a result of additional discounting to clear winter merchandise ahead of Spring.

“Whist much has been said about the cost-of-living crisis, retailers are also experiencing a cost of doing business crisis and will be concentrating on offering the best service and value for budget driven shoppers as they lead into the all-important Christmas trading period.”


Food$13.489 billion$13.960 billion+3.5%
Household goods$6.122 billion$5.715 billion-6.6%
Clothing, footwear, accessories$2.965 billion$3.007 billion+1.4%
Department stores$1.891 billion$1.880 billion-0.6%
Cafes, restaurants, takeaway$5.048 billion$5.454 billion+8.0%
Other$5.407 billion$5.414 billion+0.1%
Total$34.926 billion$35.433 billion+1.5%
New South Wales$11.028 billion$11.094 billion+0.6%
Victoria$8.976 billion$9.149 billion+1.9%
Queensland$7.222 billion$7.241 billion+0.3%
South Australia$2.217 billion$2.274 billion+2.6%
Western Australia$3.833 billion$3.988 billion+4.0%
Tasmania$698 million$691 million-1.0%
Northern Territory$312 million$321 million+2.8%
ACT$641 million$676 million+5.5%
Total$34.926 billion$35.433 billion+1.5%

/Public Release. View in full here.