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Australian retail sales missed expectations in April, rising 0.2% after seasonal adjustments, according to the ABS.

Markets had been expecting an increase of 0.3%, following a 0.4% gain in March.

Despite the underwhelming headline figure, at $24.981 billion, the monthly total was the largest on record.

Compared to a year earlier, the value of sales increased by 3.6%, unchanged from the pace recorded in March. In terms of dollar spend, there’s been a clear deceleration in sales over recent years, as demonstrated in the chart below.

Sales increased in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (1.0%), household goods retailing (0.3%), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (0.5%), other retailing (0.2%) and department stores (0.4%).

Explaining the weak headline figure, food retailing, the largest component of sales, slipped by 0.3%. It was the third month in the past four that the value of food sales fell, underlining the disinflationary forces within the Australian economy at present.

Over the past year, household goods retailing retained its title as the fastest growing category in percentage terms, increasing 5.8%. That was followed by clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing and other retailing at 4.8% and 4.4% respectively.

Food retailing, mirroring the monthly result, recorded the slowest pace of sales growth at 2.4%.

On a three monthly basis, clothing, footwear and personal accessory increased by 2.1%, the fastest of any category. Household good retailing and other retailing recorded paltry increases of just 0.9% and 0.5%, indicating a sharp deceleration in turnover.

By state and territory, sales rose in New South Wales (0.3%), Western Australia (0.6%), South Australia (0.5%), Tasmania (1.0%), the Australian Capital Territory (0.9%) and the Northern Territory (0.7%), but fell in Victoria (-0.3%) and Queensland (-0.1%).

From a year earlier, the ACT saw sales increase by 6.8%, the fastest pace across the country. Of the major states, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland recorded gains of 5%, 4.3% and 1.2% respectively.

On a shorter time frame, sales in New South Wales increased by 1% over the past three months, offsetting a small 0.6% gain in Victoria and 0.4% decline in Queensland.

Tasmania recorded the fastest sales growth from January at 1.2%.

There has been little reaction to the release, with the retail figure offset by a stronger than expected international trade result for April.

There are also few policy implication to come from today’s report.

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