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Spending gains in April spending in April rose 4.4 per cent year on year, according to latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Consumers spent $24.097 billion in April, with monthly retail trade figures reported by the ABS relatively unchanged, 0.0 per cent; following a 0.3 per cent rise in March 2015.

Executive director of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), Russell Zimmerman, said although today’s monthly figures were modest, year on year growth for April was strong.

Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing saw the greatest gains for the month, with 1.3 per cent growth; followed by cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services, 0.8 per cent.

Household goods retailing remained unchanged; while losses were recorded for other retailing, one per cent; department stores 0.7 per cent; and food retailing, 0.1 per cent.

“These rises are to be expected when you take into account autumn’s cold weather which had well and truly settled in during the month of April, prompting many Australians to start building their winter wardrobes and turn to their local restaurants and takeaway services for comfort food,” Zimmerman said.

“While interest rates are sitting at an all time low and the recently released Federal Budget delivered some good news for business, unfortunately there is still a lot of support needed to ensure the success of the retail industry into the future.”

Zimmerman said the ARA still has strong concerns following the Fair Work Commission’s decision this week to increase the National Minimum Wage to $656.92 per week, or $17.29 per hour.

“The ARA advocated before the tribunal a realistic and manageable minimum wage increase of no more than $5.70 per week for the retail sector, so we are obviously concerned about the adverse effects this decision will have on retailers. The retail industry simply cannot keep up with excessive wage increases,” Zimmerman said.

National Retail Association CEO, Trevor Evans, said the monthly result was far from pleasing and indicated penalty rates and public holidays over Easter stifled growth in April.

“Despite a strong start to the year, today’s figures show there’s still a lot of work needed to foster growth in the main lanes of the economy,” Evans said.

“April should be a perfect opportunity for consumer spending given the four day Easter long weekend. Yet steep penalty rates on public holidays are shutting down our industry when it desperately needs to stay open.

“It’s time governments across the country take action on this important issue. Jobs and the economy are suffering.”

Evans also noted that the figures pertained to the month leading up to the Federal Budget.

“Today’s results suggest that households and businesses held their collective breath in the lead up to the Federal Budget, waiting to see how it compared to last year,” Evans said.

“Retailers will be hoping to see better sales figures following the Federal Budget, given its focus on households and small business. For longer term confidence, we are hoping that the Senate passes the big ticket budget items promptly.”

By state, the ACT recorded the highest sale growth at 0.6 per cent for the month of April; followed by Victoria, 0.5 per cent; and South Australia, 0.1 per cent.

NSW remained unchanged, but decreases were seen in Tasmania, 0.9 per cent; Queensland, 0.6 per cent; and Western Australia and Northern Territory, both 0.1 per cent.

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