Retail Trade flat in April; but let’s not get too excited

ABS data for April shows Retail Trade unchanged in April from March (on a seasonally adjusted basis) which follows a 0.2% increase in March (revised down from 0.3%). However, before we get too excited about what appears to be a sharp decline in the main engine of growth (i.e household consumption) let’s take a moment to consider the fact that the Trend series showed a 0.3% increase which is the same as it has been for the past 7 months. In Trend terms Retail Trade increased by 4.4% from a year earlier. It might be worth considering why the seasonally adjusted data looks so weak, and the answer becomes clear when we look at the state breakdowns.

Queensland Retail Trade (seasonally adjusted) fell by a thumping 0.6% and was beaten only by Tasmania which fell by 0.9%. However, Retail Trade in Queensland is over 10 times as large as Tasmania’s. When we look in more detail at the Queensland data we see that $32 million total decline can be entirely slated to a $33 million drop in food retailing (and food accounts for about 41% of all Retail Trade, so is a hugely significant component). This drop in food in Queensland alone deducted a full 0.1% (seasonally adjusted) from total Retail Trade in the country.

I can’t immediately think of a reason why food shopping in Queensland in April would have been so low, but suffice to say whatever that reason is it accounts for a good chunk of the disappointment around today’s Retail Trade data. What is certain is that the ABS Trend series is not having a bar of it; Queensland Retail Trade rose 0.4% on Trend terms and was equal top with Victoria!


  1. Gene Tunny says:

    June 4th, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Good question. I have a vague suspicion it might have something to do with Easter and the imperfect art of seasonal adjustment, but I can’t quite explain why. Anyway, monthly data can be pretty volatile so best not to read too much into it.

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    June 4th, 2015 at 10:18 am

    You might be right Gene. Certainly one month of data doesn’t really tell us anything; which is why I note that the Trend remains the same as it has been for the past 7 months. Thanks for your thoughts…useful as always. Cheers

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