June retail sales up 0.4%, Q2 volumes soft

Retail spending bounced back in June with a better-than-expected 0.4 per cent rise, but soft quarterly volumes have hinted tough times will continue for business owners.

Clothing, footwear and personal accessories showed the biggest rise in seasonally adjusted retail spending in June, with monthly Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Friday showing department stores as the only sector to post a decline.

The rise in monthly retail spending to $27.44 billion beat the consensus forecast of a 0.3 per cent increase, but the 0.2 uptick in June quarter volumes missed economists’ expectations of a 0.3 per cent rise.

“There were rises in five of the six industries this month, although overall the retail environment remains subdued,” said Ben James, ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys.

Quarterly volumes returned to growth after decreasing by 0.1 per cent in the March quarter and flatlining in December.

BIS Oxford chief economist Dr Sarah Hunter said this was unlikely to provide much comfort for struggling business owners.

“With volumes rising this means the sector doesn’t meet the usual recession criteria … (but) it suggests that we’ll see another weak print for consumer spending in the June quarter national accounts,” Dr Hunter said.

Most sectors increased turnover in June and, after stalling in recent months, the share of online spending rose to 6.1 per cent, suggesting that the environment for traditional bricks and mortar retailers is still very challenging.

There were seasonally adjusted retail increases in all states except South Australia and the Northern Territory, with Tasmania’s spend increasing by a seasonally adjusted 1.5 per cent for the month.

Retail spending in the nation’s two biggest economies, NSW and Victoria, each increased by 0.3 per cent.

The Australian dollar crept higher in the 30 minutes after the data was released, rising from 68.01 US cents to 68.14 US cents.


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