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The Retail Mosaic Issue 5

Australia vs New Zealand retailing - Are there parallels across the ditch?

10 December 2022

Many Australian retailers have a presence in New Zealand. However, not all are successful in that market. In Issue 5 of The Retail Mosaic, we analyse the consumer, retail structure and profitability of retailers in NZ. Even though the consumer has similar attributes, growth rates diverge often. While some retail segments are more consolidated, many Australian retailers with operations in NZ lack scale.

Retail sales for October 2022

Moderating lockdown distortions

05 December 2022

Australian retail sales growth for October 2022 was 12.0% year-on-year. This is still elevated given part of the month was impacted by lockdowns last year. Once again, three-year CAGR growth rates are more relevant. On that basis, recreational goods, liquor and department stores slowed. It is important to note, we will be back to single-digit industry sales growth in November given the very high base line from 2021. A more noticeable slowdown will be evident in the June quarter 2023.

Retail sales for September 2022

Online normalisation continues

05 November 2022

Australian retail sales rose 18.6% year on year in September 2022. The three-year compound annual growth rate for September was 8.8%, an acceleration on 7.7% in August. Interestingly, COVID-19 winning categories, hardware and furniture, have started to slow this month. Online sales have continued to fall, down 18.6% year on year, largely reflecting lockdowns last year. The three-year CAGR remains at 27%. We expect overall retail sales will show weakness in November as we lap large Black Friday sales. Retail sales are likely to be softer in 2023 as higher interest rates take effect and savings rates are lower.

Measuring consumer behaviour vs consumer sentiment

The potential disconnect

12 October 2022

Consumer sentiment for October 2022 is 19% below the long-term average, suggesting consumers are worried. However, consumer sentiment is at odds with consumer spending. Most of the time what consumers say and what they do disconnect. Instead, we focus on measures of consumer behaviours in order to gauge the retail outlook. Restaurant and café spend has a 3x stronger correlation with retail spending than consumer sentiment. Restaurant bookings are up 23% on pre COVID-19 levels in October. Housing churn is up 80% on pre COVID-19 levels. Food inflation is 14% higher than 2019 and retail spending is up 25% on 2019 levels. There are no signs of a slowdown in spending behaviours on the near-term horizon.

Measures of consumer behaviour and sentiment

Retail sales for August 2022

Online sales decline

06 October 2022

Australian retail sales rose 19.4% year on year in August 2022. The three-year compound annual growth rate for August was 7.7%, very similar to July 2022 at 8.3%. The most interesting headline is online sales were down 15% year on year, but this largely reflects lockdowns from last year. The three-year online CAGR is still 27%. We expect overall retail sales will remain firm with the first signs of weakness likely in November 2022 given two years of high growth for that month. Retail sales are likely to be softer in 2023 as higher interest rates take effect and savings rates are lower.

What correlates with retail sales?

The disconnect between sentiment and spending

26 September 2022

In this report, we analyse  consumer sentiment and its role in predicting retail sales. Sentiment has a low correlation with retail spending other than during major crises. While it can help explain the consumer psyche, it doesn’t explain spending. Restaurant and café sales, housing churn, household deposits and food input cost inflation are all far more useful in predicting retail sales in the near-term. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment survey was down 26% in September 2022 compared with long-term trends. Weak sentiment has been evident since March 2022 and contrasts strong retail sales growth.  These indicators are generally favourable with a broader slowdown in retail likely mid 2023. However, household goods categories could slow as soon as October 2022.

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