Westpac economist Matthew Hassan said the 0.1 per cent gain in March was a disappointing result as the market has expected something around 0.4 per cent.
“The monthly sales pattern shows a loss of momentum consistent with recent readings on consumer sentiment - after surging into solidly optimistic territory late last year, the Westpac-MI Consumer Sentiment Index retraced all those gains in early 2014 to be back slightly below 'neutral' in April,” he said.
“That pull back has coincided with a sharp loss of confidence around job security that typically has a significant influence on 'discretionary' spending, on big ticket items in particular,” he added.
March’s very slight increase in turnover came from a rise in food retailing of 0.5 per cent and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services of 1.1 per cent. However, these rises were mostly offset by falls in other retailing (-1.1 per cent), household goods retailing (-0.3 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0.3 per cent) and department stores (-0.1 per cent).
The trend estimate for Australian retail turnover rose 0.5 per cent in March 2014, following a 0.6 per cent rise in February 2014, for a trend estimate up 6.1 per cent compared to 12 months previous.
In volume terms, turnover rose 1.2 per cent in the March quarter 2014, seasonally adjusted, following a rise of 1.1 per cent in the December quarter 2013.
On a state by state basis, turnover was up in New South Wales (0.8 per cent), Queensland (0.2 per cent), Tasmania (0.8 per cent) and the Northern Territory (0.1 per cent) but down in Western Australia (-0.9 per cent), South Australia (-0.8 per cent), Victoria (-0.2 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (-0.8 per cent).