Retail Sales in New South Wales

by Stubborn Mule on 4 June 2008 · 6 comments

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on the latest retail sales numbers for New South Wales that contrasted the sales growth in take-away food and pubs and clubs with the decline in business for cafes, restaurants and fresh food retailers. This is put in the context of with rising mortgage rates and fuel prices, to suggest that consumer behaviour is starting to shift. The data is published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Prompted by a comment over on the Junk Charts blog, I’ve used a table enriched with spark-lines rather than the heatmap I used in the inflation post.

Overall, monthly retail sales for April 2008 in New South Wales were $6.5 billion, an increase of 5% from April 2007 and a drop of 0.1% from March 2008. The table below breaks this down into major and sub-categories and illustrates the trend in monthly sales over the last twelve months. The bar-chart on the right-hand side shows the contribution each category makes to overall sales. For example, food makes up 40% of our expenditure and, of that, a significant proportion is spent in supermarkets.

New South Wales Retail Sales - April 2007 to April 2008

New South Wales Retail Sales – April 2008

The trend sparklines show the decline in sales for cafes, restaurants and fresh food has been steady over the last six months. Fresh food, consisting of bakeries, butchers, etc. is captured under “Other Food” and has declined by a massive 27% in total since April last year. In the meantime, pubs and clubs have seen their sales grow steadily over the last eight months which suggests that smoking bans have been more of a help than a hindrance. It’s also interesting to see that pubs and clubs capture over 10% of our expenditure, making it the largest sub-category outside food.

It is often said that the best stocks to buy in a recession are alcohol, tobacco and gaming, so notwithstanding today’s stronger than expected GDP figure, it is tempting to interpret these trends as a sign that the New South Wales economy is headed towards decline.

EDIT: I have updated the formatting of the table, following some suggestions from Andreas over at xlcubed.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susie June 4, 2008 at 11:06 pm

This graph is confusing. I wish someone would do a simple pie chart with colours.

2 Craig June 4, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Some interesting tends developing from this analysis Mule most of which you have already pointed out. However, what strikes me as interesting is the growth in Newspapers, Books and Stationary. A sector with the second highest MOM and YOY change. Could this be the start of a trend back to ‘old media’? Round 2 of the bust perhaps?

3 stubbornmule June 5, 2008 at 11:43 am

@Susie: I agree that the graph is a little confusing. Finding a good way to visualise a large amount of data without just summarising and throwing most of it away is quite challenging. In my earlier inflation post I used a heatmap which, although more colourful, can also be quite confusing. Here’s a heatmap for the retail sales data for comparison.

@Craig: I also noticed the large increase in newspapers, books and stationery: very mysterious.

4 Andreas June 6, 2008 at 1:17 am

Hi Sean,

Nice blog post :) The table was created with MicroCharts, right?

Any chance to get the MicroCharts spreadsheet you used to create the table?

I would like to post about your solution on



5 stubbornmule June 6, 2008 at 6:49 am

@Andreas: Yes, I did use MicroCharts and I’m happy to send you the spreadsheet.

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