Retail sales in the week before Easter were up compared to last year but down in the week after Easter, the latest instalment of the Australian Retail Index from BDO Australia shows.
The index show Australian consumers spent almost 20% less on items like furniture this Easter, compared to the previous week.
In a statement accompanying the index, BDO national retail lead partner Simon Scalzo said flat sales followed gains in February and March but are “typical of Easter sales patterns with retailers being affected by two public holidays and the short school holiday period”.
However, speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Scalzo said “the outlook for retail generally is positive”.
“Consumers do have more money to spend,” said Scalzo, pointing to lower interest rates and fuel prices.
Russell Zimmerman, the executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says the inconsistent timing of Easter each year means the index should be viewed only as a benchmark for that period.
March and April are important months in being able to properly gauge consumer spending, Zimmerman told SmartCompany.
“There will always be things that’ll be stronger at certain times of the year,” Zimmerman says.
“Fashion (for example), is very weather-driven.”
Other examples include school shoes in January and men’s socks and jocks in September, Zimmerman says.
Looking ahead to Mother’s Day next month, Scalzo says consumer spending will be pretty consistent, with the biggest week-on-week spending happening in fashion and accessories, which increases by 20% in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, this year on May 10.
“We’ve always seen a spike of fashion and accessories (spending) in the week before Mother’s Day,” Scalzo told SmartCompany.
According to IBISWorld, the top things Australians bought for their mothers to celebrate Mother’s Day last year were meals at restaurants and cafes ($298 million in 2013), flowers ($193.4 million), cards and gift vouchers ($134.3 million) and jewellery ($121.7 million).
“Mother’s Day is a good time for jewellers,” Zimmerman says.
Zimmerman says the feedback he’s received is the retail index has been helpful as a benchmark over the past year.
“(It’s) obviously a guideline and that’s where it begins and ends,” he says.