The success of November’s Black Friday sales fuelled a better-than-expected retail turnover for the month, with the 0.9 per cent spending increase easily outstripping market expectations.
Economists however say it remains to be seen if the rise is a sign of a strengthening economy, or merely a shifting of the sales momentum from a traditionally strong December period.
Consumers spent a seasonally adjusted $27.91 billion in November, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Friday, with department stores and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing leading the charge.
The result snapped a streak of four consecutive months of retail trade undershooting consensus expectations, and was just the fourth month in 12 that beat economists’ predictions.
Ben James, ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys, said the data indicated Black Friday – the worldwide online sales event – had delivered its best performance yet since rising to prominence in Australia.
“While seasonal adjustment removes regular seasonal patterns associated with Black Friday based on prior results, the strong seasonally adjusted rises in a number of sub-groups this month shows that the impact of this Black Friday exceeded that of previous years,” Mr James said.
However, BIS Oxford chief economist Dr Sarah Hunter said it remained to be seen how much of the month’s retail gains were brought forward from a traditionally strong December.
“Consumer confidence surveys suggest that households are becoming increasingly concerned about the economic outlook and some retailers have reported that December was disappointing, suggesting that total spending in the run up to Christmas was fairly subdued,” Dr Hunter said.
“The retail turnover data for December that will be released next month will confirm whether there has been any material pick-up in the pace of growth in household spending.”
Consensus predictions were for a 0.4 per cent increase, following an upwardly revised 0.1 per cent increase in October.
Online retail turnover contributed 7.1 per cent to total retail turnover in original terms in November 2019.
In November 2018, the figure was 6.6 per cent.
The Australian dollar climbed from 68.55 US cents to 68.68 US cents in the five minutes after the release of the data.