RETAIL growth figures from December may have ‘falsified’ consumer confidence as the sector prepares for its toughest assessment yet in the March quarter.
“The March quarter is always the toughest for retailers as credit card bills from Christmas roll in and back-to-school costs rein in consumer discretionary spend, but retailers are hopeful improved growth will return to the sector by the September quarter,” says Australian Retailers Association (ARA) director Richard Evans.
“The retail sector is the barometer of the economy and when it recovers (anticipated from the September quarter), other segments will follow three to six months later. Now is the time for the business community to show leadership and hold onto their staff, providing confidence to their employees who are the consumer market with the key to economic recovery in their wallets.”
The ARA says the 0.7 per cent increase in spend for December was positive news for retailers, albeit one that was dependent on key factors, including a slight increase to heavy discounting to move stock, petrol prices and the Rudd Government’s first economic stimulus package.
“All of these positive economic conditions had an effect on consumer spend and returned consumer confidence during the past quarter. Consumers have defied negative rhetoric and panic commentary surrounding the global financial crisis and responsibly injected funds into the economy,” says Evans.
“The key to returned consumer confidence in 2009 is job security. We’re calling on all employers throughout all supply channels to hold onto their staff to ensure consumers have the confidence to get cash flowing through the economy.”
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