Rising house prices and the latest iPhone have tempted Australians out of spending hibernation, giving retailers a healthy kickstart in the lead up to Christmas.
The release of Apple’s iPhone 6 is thought to have driven September’s shopping spree, with shoppers spending $23.6 billion in the month – a 1.2 per cent rise from August, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show.
It was the strongest rise in retail spending since November 2009, beating market expectations and showing a lift across the whole sector.
Household goods led the way with a 4.1 per cent rise in sales as the property price boom increased household wealth and encouraged people to upgrade their homes or furnish new ones.
That category also includes electronic goods, which were up an extraordinary 9.2 per cent thanks to iPhone 6 sales.
The ABS said the increase in electronic goods sales represented half of all sales in September.
Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said despite the iPhone-driven result, sales were good across the board.
He said iPhone releases around the same time in previous years had not resulted in such large jumps.
“While there appears to have been a product-related one-off boost in the latest month, the broader picture from the September retail report is still more positive than had been expected,” Mr Hassan said.
“That in turn suggests demand momentum has firmed in the third quarter.”
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, said retailers were hopeful of a bumper Christmas and eyeing annual growth of six per cent in December.
Housing market growth, the highly-anticipated release of the iPhone 6, spring racing carnival preparations and warm weather had all contributed to strong sales in September.
“From what I’m hearing, anecdotally, October was even better than September and retailers are telling me it’s been far better than last year,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“If that’s continued through October and November then we’re certainly headed in the right direction for Christmas.”
Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe said retail spending would make a significant contribution to September quarter economic growth.
“You do need the consumer to play a role in driving growth, we just can’t keep building new houses and new office blocks forever,” he said.
“So it was a positive set of numbers from the broader economic backdrop.”
JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said while September was a great month for retailers, the momentum would need to carry through into the next few months.
“We’ve also got to stress that one month won’t make a trend,” he said.
RETAIL SPENDING BREAKDOWN FOR SEPTEMBER
* Household goods, rose 4.1 pct
* Cafes, restaurants, takeaway food, rose 2.0 pct
* Department stores, rose 1.3 pct
* Food, rose 0.4 pct
* Clothing, footwear, personal accessories, rose 0.4 pct
* Other retailing, fell 0.2 pct
Source: ABS (seasonally adjusted)