Retail volumes 'may not have hit rock bottom'


Retailers bank on strong Christmas season to turn around sales described, worryingly for general freight carriers, as "dead flat"

Retailers are banking on a strong Christmas season to turn around sales described, worryingly for general freight carriers, as "dead flat".

The September quarter saw retail sales rise by just 0.1 percent, according to figures published by the Australian National Retail Association (ANRA).

ANRA Chief Executive Margy Osmond calls it a very disappointing result which does not bode well for the national economy in 2009.

What the retail sector needs is a circuit-breaker, she says.

"Christmas is the best opportunity," she says.

"After two quarters of falling sales, retailers had hoped to see the first signs of a recovery in the September quarter figures.

"The June quarter was a grim time for retailers. Consumer spending fell for the first time since 1993. Consumer confidence fell to levels not seen since the recession of the early 1990s. But, it was hoped, the sector had hit bottom."

However the September retail figures show no signs of an imminent recovery.

"In June, consumers were hit hard by rising fuel prices and interest rates. Now consumer confidence is being battered by fears of rising unemployment and economic slowdown."

In what is a glimmer of hope for some Queensland retailers, the fall of the nation’s largest retail presence New South Wales into a retail recession seems to somewhat skewing the figures.

Sales in Queensland are still respectable, however are trending downwards.

Osmond says the consolation for retailers is the impacts of the last two interest rate cuts on consumer spending are yet to flow-through, however warns it remains to be seen whether consumer sentiment will become more positive.

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