- November sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday managed to get Australians spending again.
- The month's retail figures show a big uptick in spending, outstripping previous years and filling cash registers.
- However, economists think the sales may have simply brought spending forward, predicting another lacklustre December and January.
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The Australian retail sector might largely be on life support, but its heartbeat just spiked.
Leading up to the all-important Christmas period, shopping figures for November was far stronger than in previous years and it's all because of major sales events.
"The increasing popularity of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales at the end of November provided a significant boost to retail turnover, with spending rising 0.9% on the month in seasonally adjusted terms," BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter said in a note issued to Business Insider Australia.
"The big winners were clothing, household goods, and department stores, confirming that electrical goods, clothing and furniture are the focus of the sales. Cafes, restaurants and takeaways also reported a strong gain, of 0.9% on the month."
Clothing rose and department stores enjoyed more than a 3% bump on the previous month, but it might be shortlived as a weak economy threatens.
"It remains to be seen how much of this spending was brought forward from traditionally strong-December," Hunter said. "The 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."
It could be cause for concern among retailers who now find themselves sailing through the doldrums, according to AMP Capital senior economist Diana Mousina.
"Signs of weak Christmas and early January spending, continued discounting pressure, the near-term hit to spending from the bushfires, low real wages growth and poor consumer sentiment means that the retail environment still remains challenging," Mousina said.
"There is a clear need for policymakers to provide consumers with more support, with tax cuts more favourable than interest rate cuts. However, this is unlikely to happen before the May Federal Budget so the pressure will still remain on the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates," she added, noting AMP Capital anticipates two cuts in February and March.
Hopefully, retailers can hold on until then.