Small rise in retail volumes after three falls in a row

Australian retail sales volumes rose 0.2 per cent in the September quarter 2023, according to seasonally adjusted figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, said: “The small rise in retail sales volumes follows three quarterly falls in a row. Retail volumes fell by 0.6 per cent in the June quarter 2023, 0.7 per cent in the March quarter 2023, and 0.6 per cent in the December quarter 2022.

“The rise in September was supported by lower price growth for retail goods, unusually warm weather, and special events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

Despite the rise, retail sales volumes are down 1.7 per cent compared to the September quarter last year.

“Volumes are lower despite a period of strong population growth. On a per capita basis, retail volumes are down 4.0 per cent compared to this time last year, the largest 12-month fall in the history of the series,” Mr Dorber said.

Quarterly retail turnover, in volume terms – level

QuarterSeasonally Adjusted ($m)Trend ($m)
Sep Qtr-1786,952.286,877.8
Dec Qtr-1787,473.587,353.8
Mar Qtr-1887,832.187,897.6
Jun Qtr-1888,555.988,462.7
Sep Qtr-1888,911.988,782.3
Dec Qtr-1888,714.388,796.9
Mar Qtr-1988,721.688,751.9
Jun Qtr-1988,780.288,923.1
Sep Qtr-1989,123.189,039.7
Dec Qtr-1989,220.388,858.8
Mar Qtr-2090,114.5
Jun Qtr-2086,829.6
Sep Qtr-2092,701.2
Dec Qtr-2094,594.6
Mar Qtr-2193,826.9
Jun Qtr-2194,462.4
Sep Qtr-2190,980.2
Dec Qtr-2197,876.7
Mar Qtr-2298,469.7
Jun Qtr-2299,619.4
Sep Qtr-2299,981.799,871.7
Dec Qtr-2299,406.599,446.7
Mar Qtr-2398,742.898,811.9
Jun Qtr-2398,138.898,358.6
Sep Qtr-2398,310.298,081.6

Trend estimates from March 2020 to June 2022 are not available due to the degree of disruption and volatility caused by COVID-19. Trend estimates throughout the pandemic period are likely to be unhelpful and potentially misleading for users in interpreting underlying trend in retail activity.

Retail prices rose 0.7 per cent, based on data from the Consumer Price Index, down from 1.1 per cent in the June quarter.

“Compared to the same time last year, retail prices remain high, up 3.7 per cent, but are down considerably from the peak price growth of 7.6 per cent in December quarter 2022,” Mr Dorber said.

Quarterly retail turnover, seasonally adjusted volume and price – seasonally adjusted percentage change from previous quarter

QuarterChain Volume Measures (%)Retail Prices (%)
Sep Qtr-190.40.6
Dec Qtr-190.10.7
Mar Qtr-201.01.4
Jun Qtr-20-3.61.2
Sep Qtr-206.80.8
Dec Qtr-202.00.6
Mar Qtr-21-0.80.3
Jun Qtr-210.70.5
Sep Qtr-21-3.7-0.1
Dec Qtr-217.61.0
Mar Qtr-220.61.9
Jun Qtr-221.22.1
Sep Qtr-220.42.1
Dec Qtr-22-0.61.3
Mar Qtr-23-0.70.6
Jun Qtr-23-0.61.1
Sep Qtr-230.20.7

Non-food related industries drove the rise in retail sales volumes this quarter, led by department stores (+1.5 per cent), household goods retailing (+0.8 per cent), and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (+0.5 per cent).

“These industries benefitted from drier and warmer-than-usual weather throughout the quarter. Combined with continued and frequent discounting activity, sales were higher, particularly for hardware and gardening items, and clothing. Despite the rises this quarter, sales volumes in each of these industries are lower than 12 months ago,” Mr Dorber said.

Other retailing (-0.4 per cent) was the only non-food industry to record a fall in the September quarter. This was the fourth quarterly fall in a row as volumes continue to moderate from the highs seen through the COVID-19 pandemic period.

Food retailing fell 0.3 per cent, but this was smaller than the 0.9 per cent fall in the June quarter, with volumes supported by lower prices for fruits and vegetables, as well as meat products.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services rose 0.4 per cent, boosted by spending related to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August.

Quarterly turnover, seasonally adjusted volume and price by industry – percentage change from previous quarter

IndustryChain Volume Measures (%)Retail Prices (%)
Food retailing-0.30.7
Household goods retailing0.8-0.4
Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing0.50.7
Department stores1.5-0.2
Other retailing-0.41.2
Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services0.41.6

Results were mixed across the country with most states and territories reversing last quarter’s result. Tasmania (-0.6 per cent) was the only state to have a second straight volumes fall.

Quarterly turnover, by state and territory in volumes terms – percentage change from previous quarter

Seasonally AdjustedJun Qtr-23 (%)Sep Qtr-23 (%)
New South Wales-1.30.3
South Australia0.1-0.8
Western Australia0.5-0.5
Northern Territory0.9-0.3
Australian Capital Territory-0.50.7

/ABS Public Release. View in full here.