Australian retail has had a difficult 2023 with below trend sales growth of 3.1%. We expect another challenging year with growth of 2.5% for 2024. While a weaker year, it will be a tale of two halves with softer growth in the January-June period and better growth for July-December. Moreover, we expect slowing sales in at-home food & liquor and a sharper slowdown in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food. We expect an improving rate of growth for non-food retail. While tax cuts will help sales later in 2024, lower retail price inflation, higher unemployment and a shift of spend to travel will all limit the upside in industry sales growth.
We have updated our retail sales forecasts, which are modestly higher over the next two years. We forecast FY24e retail sales growth of 1.7% (previously 1.5%). We estimate FY25e retail sales will rise 3.1% (previously 2.5%). We expect the worst of the deceleration in sales will be over by December 2023. The normalisation of volumes after excess growth during COVID-19 has played out. Households have handled the steepest period of interest rate increases by dipping into excess savings. Housing indicators are starting to improve and we have tax cuts on the horizon to support a mild recovery in sales growth for FY25e.
Australian retailers have begun to experience a slowdown in retail spending and it’s going to get tougher over the next 4-6 months. We expect FY24e retail industry sales to rise 1.5%, a slowdown from 9.0% growth in FY23e. While this may sound gloomy, a glass half full perspective is overall sales may not slow any further from the trends as at June 2023. The glass half-empty view is that we may not return towards trend sales growth until 2025. The willingness of households to tap into excess savings shapes our view that the downturn will be shallow. We also note that food inflation will prop up that sector until early 2024. The path of price inflation is likely to have a greater bearing on sales outcomes more so than retail volumes, which are already in decline.
While retail sales have started 2023 at a healthy run-rate, a downturn is looming. In this report, we detail our forecast for retail sales and emphasise that the June 2023 quarter is likely to be much weaker in non-food with food retailing propped up by inflation. The downturn is just commencing and likely to last until the end of 2024. We forecast retail sales growth of 2% in 2023, compared with 11% achieved in 2022 and long-term trends of 5%.
It is inevitable that Australian retail sales growth will be much weaker in 2023 compared with 2022. We forecast industry sales growth at 2%, down from 11% last year. Many are anticipating that retail spending will fall off a cliff. However, volumes are already weak. It is price inflation that is supporting above trend spending. We expect inflation to taper off gradually, which means a more visible downturn in retail sales in the July-December 2023 period in our view. The categories most vulnerable to an earlier slowdown are furniture, hardware and recreational goods where we forecast a decline this year. In the food sector, elevated inflation will support growth of 5% in 2023. The risks to our retail forecasts are to the upside if inflation is higher and households dip into their excess savings built up over the past three years.
We have upgraded our retail sales outlook for FY23e given such a strong start to the fiscal year and the benefit that wages growth and inflation will have on sales over the next six months. We forecast retail sales growth of 6.0% (prev 3.4%) for FY23e and 0.8% for FY24e (prev 2.4%). The weakest period of sales growth is likely to be the December 2023 half in our view, making the downturn still some time away. We are watching retail inflation closely.
Our view on retail sales is more positive over the next six months, but more cautious on calendar 2023. While the “fear” of higher interest rates makes headlines, the reality is the impact takes more than a year to show through as weaker spending. Near-term, higher wages, stored up savings and retail price inflation will support sales growth. We forecast retail sales to rise 3% in FY23e, down from 6% growth in FY22e. We expect FY23e household goods sales to fall 2%. Electronics, furniture, hardware will find it most difficult given the high baseline. Supermarkets should do well with food inflation driving 6% growth in FY23e. Two important swing factors are savings and inflation. A drop in savings to pre-COVID levels will help spending and inflation will partly offset lower volumes.
We have refreshed our forecasts for the retail sales outlook. In short, sales growth has started 2022 stronger than we anticipated and good conditions should last another six months. We forecast 4.5% sales growth in calendar 2022 (prev 3.0%) and 2.3% in 2023 (prev 3.0%). The overall two-year growth is virtually unchanged. While higher interest rates will impact spending, wages growth will be higher and the savings rate will cushion the impact. Higher inflation should also help retail sales.
While it is difficult to precisely forecast Australian retail sales given the uncertainties in the economy, we are confident enough to predict another solid year of growth. We expect retail sales to rise 3% in 2022, which is a strong result on top of 7% growth in 2020 and 5% growth in 2021. We estimate food sales will rise 4% and non-food sales to increase by 1%. In our view, the three issues that will influence retail sales the most are the magnitude of price rises, the pace of wages growth and the extent to which consumers reallocate spending away from retail. Given COVID-19 is still with us, retail is likely to outperform once again.
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