Australian retail sales only rose 0.3% for December 2023. If we average November and December, given the Black Friday pull-forward, growth was still a weak 1.1%. The additional detail for December highlights a consumer that is increasingly cautious. Café & restaurant sales were particularly weak, along with liquor and all household goods categories declined.
Australian retail sales for November rose 2.1%. Black Friday promotions drove improvements particularly in electronics, department stores and furniture. Online food and non-food were both positive, with online food strength growing double-digits. While there are concerns about a pull forward of sales into November, our feedback suggests December sales held up reasonably well.
Australian retailers have had a decent Christmas in 2023, particularly compared with low expectations amongst retailers and investors. Supermarkets traded solidly and electronics demand improved from very weak levels. Liquor and apparel are still trending at very low rates of growth. There is consensus upgrade risk to retailers, particularly Harvey Norman and Super Retail Group. While sales trends are slightly better, the strength of gross margin is the most significant driver of better earnings. The retailer where feedback has shifted most positively is Harvey Norman.
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.
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