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Outlook for Christmas retail trade in Australia expected to be modest

(Xinhua)

16:14, October 29, 2012

Christmas spending in Australia is expected to slow down with a soft retail environment heading into the festive season, according to a retail index released on Monday.

The AFGC CHEP Retail Index, a collaborative project between the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and pallet and packaging company CHEP Australia, showed that retail activity continued to lift slightly through the September quarter, however, the index predicts a slight contraction in retail turnover in November.

The AFGC CHEP Retail Index predicts year-on-year growth of 2.9 percent for the December quarter, well below the 10-year average of five percent and softer than the year-on-year growth for the September quarter of 3.7 percent.

AFGC Chief Executive Gary Dawson said the Reserve Bank's recent interest rate cuts have helped boost retail trade conditions, but overall the broader economic backdrop was creating a soft retail environment heading into Christmas.

"We're hoping that another cut in interest rates will send the right signals to households so they embrace this summer season with more optimism," he said in a statement.

Dawson said food manufacturers were facing an environment where sluggish retail conditions, rising costs for commodities, labor and energy and retail price deflation continued to cut margins.

CHEP Australia and New Zealand president Phillip Austin said while the predicted growth over the Christmas period was modest it was still encouraging for retailers.

"Further, the prospect of improved summer conditions may offer stronger growth prospects in traditional seasonal categories," he said.

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