How Australian retailers can rise above flat sales

Australia’s retail sales report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has arrived, revealing more of the same – slow growth in retail sales – in January.

The ABS report contains trend, seasonally adjusted and original estimates for retail sales segmented by both state and industry sub group, but it’s those seasonally adjusted estimates that tend to give the clearest picture of long-term performance.

Looking at recent history, last year closed out with mixed results: a strong November was followed by a slow December as retail turnover first grew 1.3 percent then fell 0.5 percent, in seasonally adjusted terms.

Setting the scene

But January’s results typically set the tone for things to come for the rest of the year. With a seasonally adjusted estimate rise of just 0.1 percent, it’s looking like another challenging year for the local retail market.

Sales growth, or lack of it, tends to indicate consumer spending preferences. And this report indicates there’s little splashing out in any area of retail.

The strongest industry subcategory was ‘other specialised food retailing’, at 1.1 percent in seasonally adjusted terms.

“There were offsetting movements by industry with rises in other retailing (1.0 per cent), household goods retailing (0.1 per cent), and cafes, restaurants and takeaways (0.1 per cent) being offset by falls in clothing, footwear and personal accessories (-0.7 per cent) and department stores (-0.6 percent),” said Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys at the ABS. “Food retailing was relatively unchanged (0.0 per cent).”

4 ways to buck the trend

Retailers who want to stand out and buck these trends can consider a few strategies, rather than relying on the performance of individual retail subcategories to increase.

1. Consider cross-border trade

If you’re a product retailer or a services business transacting online, marketing your offering to international markets can help fund growth, if approached correctly. Take Etsy’s growth strategy, for example.

2. Employ innovative marketing strategies

Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, right? No matter what kind of retailer you are, perhaps it’s time to consider how to reach out to, or reconnect with, your audience in more novel ways.

Café owners and restaurateurs who haven’t experimented with creating their own video content, we’re looking at you.

3. Up your online game

Marketing innovation means making sure your online game is on point. No matter how large or small your retail business is, you’ll not even be able to consider any of the above suggestions without a mobile-friendly, fully functional online presence.

Smaller retailers are already finding success with online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Gumtree, but there are always new platforms to explore (and create) online.

Keep pushing those boundaries!

4. Tap in to customer loyalty

The retail sector is brimming with wisdom of the ages, proving that some learnings continue to hold despite significant technological disruption in recent years. An example? Marketing to and converting new customers is always more expensive than creating repeat business through customer loyalty initiatives.

Retailers who get this piece of their business right also stand to benefit from the wealth of customer data insights such programs yield.