Australia Oct retail sales slip as consumers hold off for Black Friday sales

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian retail sales unexpectedly slipped in October as consumers cut back on everything but food, though analysts believe many were merely saving some money to splurge on Black Friday sales that took place this month.

Retail sales fell 0.2% from September to A$35.77 billion, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed on Tuesday. That compares with analysts expectations for 0.1% growth and a gain of 0.9% in September.

Sales were up 1.2% from a year earlier.

“It looks like consumers hit the pause button on some discretionary spending in October, likely waiting to take advantage of discounts during Black Friday sales events in November,” said Ben Dorber, ABS head of retail statistics.

“This is a pattern we have seen develop in recent years as Black Friday sales grow in popularity.”

An ANZ survey showed on Tuesday that ahead of Black Friday consumer intention to buy a major household item was at its highest since the first week of February.

Data from e-commerce firm Shopify also showed that point-of-sale sales made by its merchants in Australia during this year’s Black Friday sales grew 27% from a year ago.

“A strong rebound in sales this month therefore looks likely, and even if that’s followed by a renewed fall in December, sales volumes probably kept rising across Q4,” said Marcel Thieliant, head of Asia Pacific at Capital Economics.

There was little market reaction to the weaker-than-expected retail data. Markets continue to wager that the Reserve Bank of Australia will hold steady next month, but there is a 60% probability that they will have to raise rates again early next year.

Rates have risen by 425 basis points to a 12-year high of 4.35%, but consumer spending has remained resilient, one of the reasons that the RBA restarted its tightening campaign in November.

Governor Michele Bullock warned last week that inflation had become increasingly driven by domestic demand, requiring a more “substantial” response from interest rates.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu; Editing by Tom Hogue and Edwina Gibbs)