Australian retail sales continued their recent erratic course with a rise of 0.3% in October, driven perhaps by our liking for eating out or eating cheaply.

Figures out today from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the rise came after a fall of 0.2% in September (unrevised), a revised rise of 0.5% in August (a rise of 0.7% respectively) and a fall of 0.9% in August.

Market economists had forecast a rise of 0.3% in their pre-release surveys.

With spring and very hot weather in many states, casual eating and snacking seems to have been the order of the day with the ABS reporting that cafes, restaurants and takeaway venues saw a 1.1% rise in sales in the month, while department stores had a 1.9% jump (seasonally adjusted), as David Jones and Myer fought each other with sales campaigns.

The ABS said: “Food retailing, department stores, and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services have all had an increase in the trend for at least nine months.”

In fact, sales at cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets have been growing by more than 1% now since mid-year.

The ABS said that clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing saw a small fall in sales of -0.1% and other retailing (-0.1%) also fell and household good retailing was unchanged.

“Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing decreased (-0.1%), the first decline since July 2008. Other retailing decreased (-0.1%) for the second consecutive month. Household good retailing remained unchanged in October 2009.”

The rise in sales was fairly widespread with NSW seeing a 0.5% rise in trend terms, Victoria (0.2%), Western Australia (0.3%), Tasmania (0.5%), the Northern Territory (0.6%) and the Australian Capital Territory (0.1%). Queensland fell, down 0.1% and South Australia was unchanged.

“All states have had an increase in the trend estimate for at least four months except Queensland, which decreased (-0.1%) in October 2009, and South Australia, which remained unchanged for the second consecutive month.

Peter Fray

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