Deloitte Access Economics’ latest issue of Retail Forecasts reports that retailers are edging closer to a turning point when it comes to retail spending. Firstly, high price growth means prices – rather than volumes – are becoming the key driver of retail sales growth. And secondly, as Australia reverts towards pre-COVID spending patterns, growth in spending on services is likely to once again exceed growth in spending on goods.
The sector is still riding the post-pandemic high, with real retail spending growing 1.4% through the June quarter after an already strong start to 2022. That left real sales growth up 5.5% over the year, with the spending spree particularly centred around discretionary categories.
But cracks are starting to show – as households and the economy face a number of challenges, especially in the wake of another 50 basis point cash rate rise to 2.35% by the RBA today.
Retail prices increased 4.8% through the year to the June quarter, with the largest rises seen in food and household goods. Indeed, on a quarterly basis, overall retail price growth has already exceeded sales volume growth in both the March and June quarters of 2022.
The price pinch will continue over the next 12 months. Sales volume growth is expected to come in at 3.0% through the year to December 2022, and retail price growth is expected to peak at a much higher 5.9% over the same period. Having prices as the main driver of nominal retail sales, or top line revenue, is relatively unfamiliar for retail.