Consumer Discretionary

December retail trade falls 4.4%, remains second highest figure on record

Tue 01 Feb 22, 3:25pm (AEDT)

Key Points

  • December retail turnover turns negative after a post-lockdown boom in November
  • Despite the fall, December figures are the second highest on record

Retail trade fell -4.4% on-the-month in December, falling off after a sharp rise in October and November as lockdown restrictions were eased across major Australian cities. 

Five of six major retail industries fell, led by declines from department stores (-21.3%), clothing and accessories (-17.3%) and household goods (-9.3%). Food retailing, which includes supermarkets and liquor sales, was the only industry to rise, up 2.2%.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Statistics said the decline is the largest monthly fall since April 2020. However, retail figures remain elevated, up 4.8% compared to December 2020. 

Retail Trade, Australia, December 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics


The decline was in part due to consumers shopping ahead of the busy holiday season because of concerns over shipping delays and product availability. 

A similar narrative unfolded last year, where December 2020 sales declined -4.1% on-the-month, after a 7.1% jump the month before. 

Why the big numbers don’t matter 

Resilient sales turnover figures fail to reveal the bigger underlying headwinds for retailers amid global supply-chain disruptions and elevated costs.  

Fourth-quarter reporting season has witnessed retail companies like Adairs (ASX: ADH), Woolworths (ASX: WOW) and Kogan (ASX: KGN) fall victim to upward cost pressures despite top-line figures remaining relatively intact. 

The three stocks mentioned fell -21.5%, -7.6% and -11.4% on the day of their business updates. 

Companies like Premier Investments (ASX: PMV) appear to have weathered the logistical challenges better.

All will be put to the test as February reporting season kicks off.

Written By

Kerry Sun

Content Strategist

Kerry holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Monash University. He is an avid swing trader, focused on technical set ups and breakouts. Outside of writing and trading, Kerry is a big UFC fan, loves poker and training Muay Thai. Connect via LinkedIn or email.

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