December retail sales lower than expected

Retail figures for the all-important December quarter have shown lower than expected results, displaying growth of just 0.2%, compared with an expected 0.5%.


Once adjusted for inflation, sales were down 0.1%, showing signs that the RBA will not need to raise interest rates in the short-term.


With continual uncertainty over the cost of household goods and interest rate rises, Australian consumers are showing continued signs of caution when shopping.


Across the different sectors, growth came from household goods retailers, clothing retailers and the usually volatile cafes, restaurants and takeaway food outlets. Heavy discounting allowed for strong growth for household goods retailers, with electronics reportedly among the most popular of Christmas presents last year.


JB Hi-Fi reported an after tax profit of $87.9 million for the six months to December 31, a 15.6% rise on the $76 million result from last year. Sales grew 8.6% for the electronic goods retailer.


Food retailers and department stores experienced a very disappointing December, with both displaying results of negative growth. Department stores have now fallen in four of the previous six months.


Myer warned its 2011 earnings could be down as much as 5% as it announced that total sales for the six months to January 29 were down 3.54 to $1.73 billion.  Shares in Myer Holdings Ltd dropped 12.26% to $3.29 with rival David Jones also experiencing a fall in share price, falling 3.4 per cent to $4.57.


The quarterly sales volume numbers for December were also released today, showing negative results with a fall of 0.3% for all retailers, with non-food retailers’ sales volume falling the first negative quarter since September 2009.


State-by-state, Victoria and NSW were the strongest in sales growth in December, while SA, WA and Tasmania continued with negative sales growth. Monthly and annual growth comparisons indicate Victoria was still out in front as the busiest shopping state over the Christmas period.


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