Only our richest are really buying more

Strong retail figures have been hailed as a welcome rebound following recent budget-induced uncertainty, but beyond the headline numbers some startling patterns emerge.

The Abbott government was given a news-cycle reprieve over the past fortnight as the headlines shifted to the tragedies in Ukraine and Gaza, and moved away from the negative stories flowing from the federal budget.

That said, the long run news cycle cannot stay off the budget or the economy for long, and this week's economic data paints a confusing picture of whether that will be good or bad for the government.

Strong retail figures for the month of June (though still negative for the quarter) were hailed by some as a 'rebound' in spending, following a recovery in the ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence figures.

CommSec's Craig James was upbeat: "Car sales remain healthy; services sector activity is improving; exports to China are at record highs; and consumer confidence has only eased a touch after three weeks of gains. With less media attention on the budget, people are getting on with life."

But are they? Drilling down into the retail data on a state-by-state basis, some interesting patterns emerge.

In the charts below I have taken the beginning of Gillard government as a starting point, given the economic chaos of the GFC period preceding it. That provides some insight into which Australians have been on a shopping spree over the past four years, and which have not – the 'leaders' and 'laggards' are separated out for ease of reading.

Graph for Only our richest are really buying more



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