Retail sales momentum slowed in June

·2-min read

Australian retail sales lost momentum faster than expected last month, with economists attributing the slowdown to rising inflation and interest rates.

A strong uptake in overseas travel and more spending on services may also have had an effect.

Retail turnover was up 0.2 per cent in June, at a record $34.2 billion, its sixth straight monthly rise but also its smallest climb so far this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

The consensus expectations had been for a 0.5 per cent rise.

Sean Langcake, head of macroeconomic forecasting for BIS Oxford Economics, said the figures showed a "marked slowing in momentum compared to the strong run of sales over 2022 to date".

Retail trade had increased by 0.7 per cent in May, 0.9 per cent in April and 1.6 per cent in March.

"Considering how strong price inflation for retail goods was in Q2, this is quite a soft print and implies volumes growth was likely negative in the June quarter," Mr Langcake said in an email.

"We are starting to see pressures on household budgets from fast inflation and higher interest rates weighing on sales volumes."

AMP economist Diana Mousina blamed the slowdown also in part on poor consumer sentiment and additional spending on services, rather than goods, as economies reopen.

The strong uptake of overseas travel would have also shifted some household spending away from Australian retailers, ANZ senior economist Adelaide Timbrell said.

There were 20 per cent more Australian departures than arrivals in June, while in May that gap was just one per cent.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services had the largest rise, gaining 2.7 per cent, which NAB economist Taylor Nugent attributed in part to the discount voucher schemes made available by governments in NSW and Victoria.

Spending on clothing and footwear was up 1.3 per cent, while turnover in the catch-all category of "other retailing" rose 0.5 per cent.

Spending in department stores fell by 3.7 per cent, while there was a 0.3 per cent drop in retail food and household goods.

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said the fall in food retailing was surprising, given how high price inflation has been in the sector over the past six months.

Turnover rose 1.8 per cent in the Northern Territory, 0.7 per cent in Queensland, 0.6 per cent in the ACT and 0.5 per cent in Western Australia and Tasmania.

It fell 0.2 per cent in NSW and was flat in South Australia and Victoria.

KPMG senior economist Dr Sarah Hunter said the stronger performance in Queensland and WA was consistent with the spike in inward migration both states had seen over the past two years.

On an annual basis, retail turnover in June was up 12 per cent over the same period in June 2021 - although June 26, 2021, was the start of the Delta lockdown in Sydney.

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