Decoding the two sides to the retail story

Despite strong retail sales growth over the December quarter, retailers should steel themselves for a tough year.

Retail sales were weak during December but strong over the quarter. The market was both shocked on the downside and on the upside. But what does it really mean? Two clear takeaways are that household spending will be fairly solid when the national accounts are released later this month and that retailers should brace themselves for another difficult year.

The value of retail sales rose by 0.2 per cent in December, missing market expectations, to be 4.1 per cent higher over the year. However, at least part of the weakness appears cosmetic, with volumes surging over the past three months.

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