Australian retail sales up 16.3% in May

Australian retail sales surged 16.3% in May to $4.03 billion. This is the largest month-on-month rise in 38 years. The …

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Australian retail sales surged 16.3% in May to $4.03 billion. This is the largest month-on-month rise in 38 years. The release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a surge in sales right across the retailing industry. This is good news for retail ASX shares and the broader economy. 

However, does this mark a turning point that ASX retailers had been dreaming about? Let’s begin with a dive into the impact on retail shares and the economy.

Impact on retail ASX shares

Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) will benefit as hardware, building and garden supplies, clothing, electronic goods and footwear experienced large increases in sales. This is good news for its Bunnings, Target, Kmart and Officeworks brands. 

Similarly, JB Hi-Fi Limited (ASX: JBH) and Harvey Norman Holdings Limited (ASX: HVN) will benefit from sales increases in household goods. Products such as furniture, floor covering, houseware, textile goods, electrical and electronic goods saw an increase in turnover. 

In addition, there is positive news for supermarkets owned by Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW), Coles Group Ltd (ASX: COL) and Metcash Limited (ASX: MTS) with food retailing rising solidly. 

Impact on the economy

A rise in retail sales is good news for the broader economy as it illustrates consumers are feeling more optimistic about their finances. Government intervention in terms of Jobkeeper and Jobseeker could also explain the spark for retail sales. Increased foot traffic to retailers is also marked by the easing of restrictions. Also, strong retail sales is a positive development for jobs in the industry.

Does this mark a turning point for Australian retail?

Many retailers are hoping so. Unfortunately, the 16.3% increase in May follows a 17.7% fall in April.  More light will be shed on whether there is a recovery playing out in the industry as retail data is released over the coming months.   

The shift in how we work and study could also explain the surge in retail sales.  Working and studying from home has prompted a sharp rise in demand for office-related furniture and equipment. Furthermore, the reduction in time travelling to work meant we have more time to do DIY projects at home. This may shift with a return back to the office.

While the strong rebound in retail sales is excellent news for the ASX retailers mentioned above, cautious optimism is needed. Jobkeeper has an estimated expiry date of September which will be a hit to consumers discretionary income and Jobseeker payment is set to revert back to levels pre-crisis. As a result, the consumer’s optimism may quickly evaporate and tighten their wallets. 

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Motley Fool contributor Matthew Donald owns shares of Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. and Wesfarmers Limited. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of COLESGROUP DEF SET, Wesfarmers Limited, and Woolworths Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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