Australian shoppers boost November retail sales to five-month highs

Shoppers at department store Metro’s Paragon outlet on Black Friday on Nov 23 2018

The November result was better than the 0.3 per cent rise expected by the market, with the Australian dollar spiking above 72 United States cents on the release, before cooling to 71.96 at 1135 AEDT.

The authority said excluding motor vehicles, retail sales of last November dropped 0.2 percent year-on-year but rose 1.4 percent month-on-month.

Retail sales beat expectations slightly in November, rising 0.4 percent m/m. Clothing and household goods sales improved, likely reflecting the growing popularity of Black Friday sales in November, which in the presence of stiff price competition implies higher sales volumes. In November 2017 online retail turnover contributed 5.5 per cent to total retail. Even so, Australia's retail sector faces several headwinds amid a downturn in the country's property market, sluggish wage growth and high household debt.

Adding to evidence of the impact of online sales in late November, the ABS noted online turnover accounted for 6.6% of total sales during the month in original terms, up from a 5.9% contribution in October.

Australian retail sales jumped to the highest in five months in November boosted by pre-Christmas shopping, an indication private consumption bounced in the final quarter of 2018.

For the month of November, household goods retailing spiked 1.2% [seasonally adjusted], with electrical and electronic goods retailing jumping 3.3%.

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"Both of these industries were impacted by strong promotional activity in the November month, including Black Friday sales."

In seasonally adjusted terms there were rises in New South Wales (0.8 per cent), Queensland (0.4 per cent), Western Australia (0.6 per cent), the Australian Capital Territory (1.6 per cent), and Victoria (0.1 per cent).

The better-than-expected outcome was enough to send the Australian dollar about 20 pips higher to $0.7205, a level not seen since mid-December. The steep slowdown, leaving annual growth in sales at the weakest level since May previous year, reflects the high base effect created by a huge 1.2% increase in turnover that occurred in November 2017.

Mr Faulkner said there were also slight increases for food retailing (0.2pc) and department stores (0.4pc), but declines for restaurant and takeaway services (-0.1pc).

November turned out to be a solid month for retailers, as shoppers brought forward their Christmas spending.

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