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Steady growth in May small business sales, driven by trades, business services and auto sectors

Small Business Sales Trends – Highlights

  • Small business sales increased by 6.9% y/y in May 2012 and by 3.8% on a YTD basis. 
  • Divergences between growth rates of retail businesses and non-retail businesses remained evident in the May data, with appliances & electrical (-2.6% YTD), clothing & fashion (-1.2% YTD), and homewares & furniture (-1.9% YTD) reporting falling sales. Automotives (+7.8% YTD) and business services (+5.9% YTD) retained their relatively strong growth rates. 
  • Sales growth in Western Australia (+6.5% YTD) remained the strongest of the states, with the Northern Territory (+6.1% YTD) and Queensland (+5.1% YTD) following closely behind. Sales growth in South Australia (+2.3% YTD), Tasmania (+0.9% YTD), and the ACT (+1.3% YTD) continued to be relatively weak. 

ANZ today released its monthly Small Business Sales Trends report which showed small business sales rose steadily in May, up 6.9% year-on-year and 3.8% on a year-to-date basis. The data continues to show divergences between retail-related industries, which were up 1.4% year-to-date, and non-retail sectors, which were up 5.5% year-to-date.


Nick Reade, ANZ General Manager of Small Business, said: “It’s pleasing to see that small business sales improved this month, with sales increasing by 6.9% year-on-year in May 2012 and 3.8% on a year-to-date basis.


“As we’ve seen over the last year or so, some small business sectors are continuing to experience difficult business conditions, while others are tracking along reasonably well.


“For example, the trades, business services and automotive industries have all seen good growth on a year-to-date basis, up 4.2%, 5.9% and 7.8% respectively. This data also reinforces what we’re hearing from our customers in these areas, who have said they are beginning to see an increase in work coming through.


“We’re also seeing differences in growth rates across the states and territories continue. After some recent patches of weakness, small businesses in New South Wales and Victoria appear to be improving, with sales increasing by 3.4% year-to-date and 3.8% year-to-date respectively.


“Although total small businesses appear quite healthy with monthly sales growing by 6.9% year-on-year, we are still seeing some businesses, such as the traditional retailers, doing it tough. In coming months, we’re hoping to see the May and June interest rate cuts further support the small business sector,” Mr Reade said.


Ivan Colhoun, ANZ Head of Australian Economics and Property Research, said: “May’s data again reinforces the divergences between various states and industries that have become familiar to Australian businesses.


“Over the past eight months, retail-related small businesses have continued to record weaker sales growth rates than their non-retail counterparts. In May, this trend continued, with retail small businesses rising by approximately 1.4% year-to-date and non-retail small businesses growing by 5.5% year-to-date.


“The retail categories of electricals and clothing which are typically the areas heavily exposed to the high Australian dollar – and as a result, vulnerable to the increased prevalence of online shopping platforms – continued to see declining sales in May.


“The two-speed geographic nature of small business sales also continued to be reflected in the data, with WA, Queensland, and the NT all recording stronger rates of sales growth.


“These features of the ANZ Small Business Sales Trends report have also been evident in the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s retail trade reports for April and Q1 GDP data,” Mr Colhoun said.


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