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Price Watch Issue 6 - Retail price drivers

The lead indicators for retail prices

07 July 2023

Like most countries, Australian retail price inflation is elevated, but looks to be peaking. In Issue 6 of Price Watch, we uncover the key lead indicators of retail price inflation. We find that price changes are well correlated globally in electronics and food. Sea freight rates are a good predictor of retail prices alongside some input price indices. The spot observations on all of these indicators suggest Australian retail price inflation is likely to fall meaningfully over the next 12 months and contribute to a slowdown in retail sales growth. We may even see deflation in categories like electronics and apparel.

As global trade tensions build and geopolitical risks rise, we think Australian retailers are going to need to diversify their supply chains. Australia imports ~86% of its non-food consumer goods and we estimate 57% of these imports come from China. The productivity of China has led to a concentration of sourcing that represents a real risk on a 5-10 year horizon as Chinese wage rates rise further, supply chains face further disruptions and trade tensions rise. Electronics is the most at-risk category entirely imported, with 56% of imports from China, followed by clothing and accessories at 94% imported, with 55% from China.

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