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First time since 2008: retail sales fall for three consecutive quarters

Australian retail sales volumes fell 0.5 per cent in the June quarter 2023, making it the third quarter in a row to see a fall, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

It follows a 0.8 per cent drop in the March quarter 2023 and a 0.4 per cent fall in the December quarter 2022.

Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics, said the fall in retail sales volumes shows the extent that consumers have pulled back on spending in response to cost-of-living pressures.

“It’s the first time since 2008 that retail sales volumes have recorded three consecutive quarterly falls.

”Retail sales volumes are down 1.4 per cent compared to the June quarter last year. Outside of the pandemic period, this is the first time since 1991 that sales volumes have fallen compared to the previous year.”

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Retail prices, on the other hand, which are based on data from the Consumer Price Index, rose 0.9 per cent this quarter, up from 0.7 per cent in March.

“Retail prices rose for the seventh straight quarter, but have eased from the strong growth throughout 2022,” Mr Dorber said.

Retail sales volumes fell for both food-related industries this quarter. Food retailing (-0.7 per cent) recorded a second successive fall and is down 0.2 per cent compared to the June quarter last year. Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services sales (-0.1 per cent) fell for the first time since the COVID-19 Delta lockdowns in September 2021.

Retail sales volumes were also down for household goods retailing (-1.5 per cent) and department stores (-1.4 per cent). Other retailing sales volumes remained relatively unchanged (0.0 per cent).

“The widespread fall in sales volumes reflects what retailers have been telling us about consumers focusing on essentials, buying less or switching to cheaper brands,” Mr Dorber said.

Clothing footwear and personal accessory retailing (+1.1 per cent) was the only industry to record a rise in retail sales volumes this quarter. Volumes were boosted by additional promotional activity and discounting.

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