January retail sales rebound, underlying growth stalls

January retail sales rebound, underlying growth stalls

January retail sales rebound, underlying growth stalls


By Mina Martin

After a significant drop in December, Australia’s retail sector experienced a 1.1% rise in January, yet trend data indicated a halt in underlying growth, reflecting shifting consumer spending patterns, according to ABS’ latest figures.

January’s retail sales recovery

Fresh ABS data showed a 1.1% increase in retail turnover for January, in seasonally adjusted terms, following a 2.1% decrease in December – a positive sign for retailers after a challenging holiday season. The rebound places retail turnover back to levels seen in September, suggesting a recovery from the end-of-year dip.

Underlying growth stalls

Despite the positive start to the year, Ben Dorber (pictured above), ABS’ head of retail statistics, pointed out that the January rebound does not signal underlying growth in the retail sector.

The trend estimates for retail turnover remained unchanged, indicating that the volatility observed in recent months has not translated into sustained growth.

“Rather, spending patterns have shifted because of changes in seasonality around Black Friday as consumers took advantage of discounting in response to cost-of-living pressures,” Dorber said in a media release.

Sector-specific insights

The rebound was most pronounced in non-food industries, with clothing, footwear, and personal accessory retailing leading the recovery with a 2.4% rise. Household goods (2.3%) and department stores (1.7%) also saw significant increases.

However, food retailing experienced a slight decline of 0.1%, marking it as the only sector not to join the upward trend.


Cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services saw a 1.3% increase, driven by major sporting events such as the Australian tennis summer and the Big Bash League. These events contributed to higher-than-usual turnover in catering services, offsetting the previous four months of consecutive declines.

Regional performance

The retail uplift was broadly experienced across Australia, with most jurisdictions witnessing increases of 1% or more. Tasmania stood out with a 1.3% rise, bouncing back from a flat performance in December.

For more information, access Retail Trade, Australia, January 2024.

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