Retailers are on track for their best result in five years and there are encouraging signs for the building industry, figures show.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics retail trade and building approvals figures for November indicate the economy is gathering pace.
Retail trade rose 0.7 per cent nationally in November, the seventh straight monthly increase. The gain for the past four months was the strongest for 1½ years.
WA was a stand-out performer as sales rose 1.3 per cent, with only the Northern Territory doing better.
Consumers showing an appetite for dining out and takeaway food helped, as well as those buying Christmas presents such as sporting equipment, toys and video games.
Department stores and bottleshops recorded a fall in sales.
The bureau also released data on online sales for the first time. It showed shoppers spent more than $2.7 billion at Australian online stores between March and September 2013.
Although online sales increased 12 per cent in that time, they made up just 1.9 per cent of the total spending across the entire retail sector. The Australian National Retailers Association said that the sector was shaping for its best result since 2009 after total turnover rose $153 million in November.
"Retailers have welcomed today's result and it has put the sector in high spirits that December's figures will provide another positive result," deputy chief Russell Goss said.
Mr Goss said the association believed the online data was underestimated and internet purchases accounted for 5-6 per cent of total retail spending.
Home building approvals were down 1.5 per cent nationally in November, thanks to a slide in approvals for building apartments but overall they remained up 22 per cent for the year.
Importantly, the private home building sector - which creates the most jobs - increased 6 per cent for the month nationally.
In WA, total dwelling approvals rose 4 per cent. South Australia led the way with a 23.2 per cent rise and NSW and Queensland posted big gains. "Overall, the level of building approvals is high and the latest update indicates that activity in the market continues along a rising trend," Housing Industry Association senior economist Shane Garrett said.