Early sales spark small lift in May spending

Clothing and accessory retail sales lifted in May - Newsreel
Clothing retail sales lifted 1.6 percent in May off the back of early end-of-financial year promotions. | Photo: nd3000 (iStock)

End of financial year sales helped drive a small boost in retail spending in May as consumers remained cautious with their spending.

Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusted retail turnover figures rose 0.6 percent in May. This followed a 0.1 percent rise in April 2024 and a 0.4 percent fall in March.

ABS head of business statistics Robert Ewing said turnover was boosted by “watchful shoppers” taking advantage of early end-of-financial year promotions and sales events.

“Retail businesses continue to rely on discounting and sales events to stimulate discretionary spending, following restrained spending in recent months,” he said.

“Despite the seasonally adjusted rise, underlying spending remains stagnant with retail turnover flat in trend terms. Compared to May 2023, trend is only up 1.5 percent.”

The figures revealed flat food spending, with food retailing up 0.7 percent (driven by strong alcohol sales) but spending at cafes and restaurants down 0.1 percent.

“People appear to have returned to usual purchasing habits after opting for cheaper alcoholic products in March, stocking up more than usual in the lead up to Easter, resulting in a lower growth rate in April,” Mr Ewing said.

“Large cultural events continue to impact cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services, with the fall in May a reversal of increased spending associated with LIV Golf Adelaide and the AFL Gather Round in South Australia last month.”

Western Australia (1.3 percent) and Victoria (1.2 percent) had the largest rises, with Queensland managing only a 0.5 percent rise.

Clothing, footwear, and personal accessory retailing had the largest rise (1.6 percent) following two consecutive falls in April and March.

Household goods retailing (1.1 percent) and other retailing (0.2 percent) also rose, while department stores fell (-0.9 percent).

Full details are on the ABS website.