March trade figures show retail in urgent need of Budget relief

The National Retail Association has called on the Federal Government to address the cost-of-trading crisis confronting Australian retail in its May Budget, after ABS March trade figures revealed a drop in sales. 

National Retail Association Deputy CEO Lindsay Carroll said any momentum gained by Taylor Swift’s concerts were undone in March, with clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, and department store spending falling by 4.3% and 1.6%

“Retailers selling discretionary items are most at risk of exiting the market and are using any boost in sales as a life raft into the next month,” Ms Carroll said. 

“Businesses are struggling with unprecedented rent increases, skyrocketing power prices and insurance, and the Government’s May Budget is fast becoming a beacon of hope for many shop owners. 

“High interest rates and low consumer confidence have pushed retailers into a cost-of-trading crisis, putting Australia’s second-largest employer at risk. 

“We call on the Federal Government to put downward pressure on energy and insurance costs so retailers suffering from scarce consumer spending can keep more of what they earn,” she said. 

Ms Carroll said states that enjoyed a Swift kick to trading last month suffered a comparatively worse decline in March, with Victoria and New South Wales falling by 0.8% and 1.1% respectively.  While non-tour states, including Queensland (0.4%) earned a slight comeback.

“77% of Australian businesses project their overheads to worsen through the year, so any sugar hit to retail sales is likely to be lost soon after it’s earned.  

“The May Budget gives the Federal Government the opportunity to address skyrocketing energy and insurance premiums and take excess pressure off Australian businesses, the lifeblood of our economy.”