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Food, such as hams, drove a pre-Christmas spending spree by consumers. Picture: Rob Duncan/The West Australian.
Food, such as hams, drove a pre-Christmas spending spree by consumers. Picture: Rob Duncan/The West Australian.

Consumers went on a ham and pudding-fuelled spending spree to finish off the year in a sign the retail sector has turned the corner.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show retail spending lifted by 0.5 per cent in December.

In terms of volumes, sales actually jumped further, up by 0.9 per cent.

While there were anecdotal reports that the Christmas period had been a good one, the figures suggest it depended what retailers had on the shelves.

Food retailing jumped by 2.5 per cent or by almost $250 million through the month.

Other increases were reported by department stores (up by 0.3 per cent) and the cafes and restaurants sector (up by 0.5 per cent).

But turnover for household goods dropped by 0.2 per cent while the value of clothing and footwear sales slumped by 2.1 per cent.

In WA, after a strong November, sales were up by a modest 0.1 per cent in the Christmas period.

Tasmania (up by 1.8 per cent) and the ACT (by 1.3 per cent) were the strongest retail centres for the month while they slipped in both South Australia (0.2 per cent) and the Northern Territory (by 1.5 per cent).

The overall lift in retail sales follows the Reserve Bank's decision this week to lift official interest rates on hold and signal there will be no further cuts.

In a further positive sign, the bureau reported the country logged a $470 million trade surplus in December, a jump of 364 per cent over November.

It was driven by a sharp increase in exports of rural goods, predominately grains, while there were solid improvements in mineral and resource exports.