Australia retail sales buoyed by Black Friday spending in November

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By Ambar Warrick Australian retail sales grew more than expected in November, data showed on Wednesday, as consumers took advantage of increased discounts during the Black Friday shopping event.

Retail sales grew 1.7% in November to a new record high, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said in a statement. The figure was more than expectations for a rise of 06%.

The ABS also revised October’s unexpected 0.2% fall to a rise of 0.4%, which was still the smallest rise in retail sales so far this year.

Consumers spent the most on clothing, footwear, furniture and electronic goods, the ABS said in a statement. This was largely driven by increased discounts during the Black Friday event. While the event is traditionally U.S.-focused, taking place on the first Friday after Thanksgiving, the past decade saw an increasing number of discounts from retailers across the globe during the event.

Higher inflation also may have played a part in increased shopping through November.

“Given the increasing popularity of Black Friday sales, the smaller increase in October may reflect consumers waiting to take advantage of discounting in November, particularly in light of cost-of-living pressures,” Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics said in a statement.

But while sales in industries exposed to Black Friday trends rose substantially, consumers spent far less on food, which has otherwise been a key support of retail spending so far this year.

Spending on food retailing, cafes and restaurants marked its weakest monthly growth in November this year following an initial boom in the space after Australia relaxed most of its anti-COVID restrictions earlier this year.

Australia is grappling with increased inflation in the wake of a post-COVID economic reopening, as the effects of pandemic-era stimulus measures also factored into the economy. Consumer price index inflation surged to a 30-year high in the third quarter, and is expected to remain elevated in the coming months.

This spurred a series of sharp interest rate hikes by the Reserve Bank, which, coupled with high inflation, is expected to weigh on retail spending in the coming months.

A post-COVID economic boom also appears to be running out of steam in Australia, as growth in the third quarter missed expectations.

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