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Retail expecting tough times

Chris Peters, chief executive officer of the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Chris Peters, chief executive officer of the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Many Canberra retailers are expecting several lean months as nervous public servants save instead of spend in the lead-up to the federal election.

The ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Chris Peters said he expected local retail sectors to continue to do it tough until after the result of the election was known.

"It's tough everywhere in Australia but I think it will remain particularly tough in Canberra until after the federal election. So many consumers are waiting to see what's going on, particularly the 45 per cent of our workforce who are public servants,'' he said.

Dr Peters said some local banks were reporting increased deposits as Canberra residents spent less of their disposable income.

"They're either paying down debt or saving,'' he said.

Dr Peters said many local retailers had anticipated a difficult Christmas period but had actually achieved similar sales to last Christmas.

"This year they were heavily discounting more, so their margins are hurting more. I suspect we're going to see some problems in retailing over the next couple of months as payments for Christmas stock become due,'' he said.

The ACT's two federal Labor MPs, Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann, said on Tuesday that Canberra's retailers were already benefiting from the payment of $5 million worth of "school kids bonuses'' to local families.

Ms Brodtmann, the MP for the southern seat of Canberra, said: "It's got everyone out - from what I can gather -buying uniforms. Uniforms and school shoes appear to be the top purchases at the moment.''

The bonus is paid in two instalments of $205 each year for each child in primary school - a total of $410 each year.

Families with children in secondary school receive two instalments of $410 for each child - a total of $820 each year.

Ms Brodtmann said that before Christmas local retailers had told her that business was steady or softening slightly. She said many people were concerned about the financial impacts of mass job losses in the public service sector if the Coalition won the election.

"Hospitality seems to be going very well. In terms of retail, I hear it's steady or softened a bit. But everyone is terrified of what could be if Tony Abbott wins government,'' she said.

The National Retailers Association chief executive, Margy Osmond, said many of her members across the country had reported good sales results after Christmas.

"Boxing Day sales started off well, with high numbers in-store and record numbers of online sales, which kicked off for the first time on Christmas Day,'' Ms Osmond said.

"The biggest sales week is that first week after Boxing Day and retailers reported good sales, though this may have been supported by hot temperatures around the country encouraging household items purchases. November retail trade figures out earlier this month were negative, suggesting Christmas spending was flat. We won't have the December figures until early next month.''

7 comments so far

  • I'm not nervous, I'm tapped out. Necessities can't keep going up up and up and everybody goes shopping.

    Date and time
    January 23, 2013, 8:13AM
    • It is the non essential retailers and service providers that will be in most trouble as well as the over represented industries. Mobile retailers, Manicurist/pedicurists (general beauty industry), coffee shops, body building supplement shops. People will either get products cheaper online, or make do, i.e. go another year without updating the phone, do without $30-$40 week of coffee, do makeup and nails at home.

      Date and time
      January 23, 2013, 9:26AM
      • Not a nervous APS, but nothing extra to spend as electricity & gas bills have all gone up amongst other bills.

        Mac the Beagle
        Date and time
        January 23, 2013, 12:42PM
        • How is that possible? when the spruikers say house pricing is rising, and the local government keeps saying the land value is more per m2 than Hong Kong where there really is a land shoratge.......It's a new boom cycle in Canberra...sic

          Date and time
          January 23, 2013, 2:30PM
          • But I've been led to believe that the people in private enterprise reckon, at least privately, that all public servants are bludgers and rub their hands in delight at the prospect of as many of them as possible getting the boot.

            Date and time
            January 23, 2013, 3:05PM
            • This is nothing. Wait till Abbott is PM and the promised 15,000 sackings are made straight-away. Jobseekers wont be coming to Canberra, sacked public servants will be leaving Canberra to find work. The Coalition will reduce Health and Education to a policy rump with other functions given to the States.

              Why are these developers building all these apartments? They would be better buying up removalist firms for the exodus from Canberra.

              Date and time
              January 23, 2013, 3:33PM
              • My ability to spend is impacted by the massive increases in the cost of services and by the lack of goods in this town I wish to spend my money on.

                Remember that CPI is 3%, we were lucky to get 3 to 3.5% wage increases and utilities went up on average 17% - across the board. My maths are a bit shaky but it doesn't seem to be working in my favour at the moment.

                Question: with the drop in home values will my rates drop too this year?

                Outraged of Palmerston
                Date and time
                January 23, 2013, 4:08PM

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