How ASX 200 retail shares just got a boost from 'watchful shoppers'

ASX 200 retail shares just enjoyed a boost from the latest ABS retail sales report. But why?

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S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) retail shares got a late morning boost today, thanks to some thrifty Aussie shopping habits in May.

This follows the 11:30 a.m. AEST release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) retail sales data for May.

In the minutes following the report's release, the benchmark index gained 0.2%, with most ASX 200 retail shares joining the mini rally.

Here's what we know.

Discounts driving sales growth

According to the ABS, Australian retail turnover rose 0.6% in May. That's a marked improvement from the 0.1% increase in April and the 0.4% decline in March.

While that result is offering some tailwinds for ASX 200 retail shares today, investor reaction is likely muted as much of the growth was attributed to the big retailers' sales events during the month.

"Retail turnover was boosted this month by watchful shoppers taking advantage of early end-of-financial year promotions and sales events," Robert Ewing, ABS head of business statistics, said.

"Retail businesses continue to rely on discounting and sales events to stimulate discretionary spending, following restrained spending in recent months," Ewing added.

And while it's good to see growth figures for May, the bigger picture is less rosy.

"Despite the seasonally adjusted rise, underlying spending remains stagnant with retail turnover flat in trend terms. Compared to May 2023, trend is only up 1.5%," Ewing said.

Digging into the market segments for ASX 200 retail shares, clothing, footwear, and personal accessory retailing had the largest rise (up 1.6%) after falling in March and April.

Household goods retailing increased by 1.1%, while sales at department stores decreased by 0.9%.

"Many retailers started end-of-financial year sales early, offering larger discounts than usual and noted that shoppers remain price-sensitive in response to persistent cost-of-living pressures," Ewing added.

How are these ASX 200 retail shares tracking?

Drilling down to a few specific ASX 200 retail shares, the Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) share price jumped 0.3% on the ABS sales data, though it has since given back those gains, currently at $64.12 a share.

Wesfarmers subsidiaries include household names such as Bunnings Warehouse, Kmart Australia, Officeworks, and Priceline.

Shares in furniture and electrical goods retailer Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd (ASX: HVN) gained 0.4% following the ABS release and are currently at $4.22.

And ASX 200 home electronics retail share JB Hi-Fi Ltd (ASX: JBH) gained 0.7% following the sales data. At the time of writing, JB Hi-Fi is managing to hold onto those gains, currently at $61.22 a share.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Wesfarmers. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Harvey Norman and Wesfarmers. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Jb Hi-Fi. 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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