The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicated department store were particularly badly hit by soft trading, with sales lagging the rest of the sector compared to the same period in 2009.
With official sales from the six week Christmas period yet to be confirmed at the time of writing, ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman confirmed in a media statement that original projections of a $39.9 billion Christmas looked doubtful with the 2.1 percent total retail sales growth from December 2009 to December 2010 sitting below predictions.
“Department store trade has continued to decline with sales down 1.2 percent from November and 0.5 per cent in decline from December 2009,” he said, adding the struggle for department stores to post significant growth was reflected in Myer’s downgrade of profit expectations released 7 February.
“Heavy discounting before Christmas resulted in only soft December growth for household goods (up 1.5 per cent from November and up 0.7 percent from the same time last year) and apparel retailing (up 2.7 per cent from November and up 1.9 percent from the same time last year).
“Disappointing December retail sales are expected to continue through the post-Christmas sales period in January (when floods ravaged most states) and beyond as already frugal consumers anticipated flood levies and increased costs of essential food items.
“With retailers across the country being hit by natural disasters the ARA is extending its offer of a three month free membership to flood and cyclone affected retailers who need assistance getting back on their feet,” Zimmerman said.
Year on year retail growth by category from December 2009 to December 2010 was as follows:
Clothing, footwear & personal accessory retailing (1.9%), department stores (-0.5%) cafes, restaurants & takeaways (2.4%), other retailing (2.6%), food retailing (1.8%) and household goods retailing (3.4%).
Monthly retail growth from November to December 2010 was as follows: Household goods retailing (1.5%), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (2.7%) and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.8%) recorded the largest rises in December 2010. Turnover fell in food retailing (0.5%), other retailing (-0.8%) and department stores (-1.2%).
Turnover rose in Victoria (0.5%), New South Wales (0.4%), Queensland (0.3%) and the Northern Territory (0.2%). Turnover fell in South Australia (-1.3%), Tasmania (-1.3%), Western Australia (-0.2%) and the Australian Capital Territory (-0.5).