Retail and wholesale trade


In this section, analysis is provided for both the Northern Territory's (NT) retail and wholesale trade industries. It explores the current state, performance and activity of each sector. The main retail categories are food, household goods, clothing, footwear and personal accessories, newspaper and books, other recreational goods, pharmaceuticals cosmetics and toiletries, and cafes restaurants and takeaway food. The wholesale industry makes up a significantly smaller share of employment relative to retail trade and relates to industrial storage and equipment, transport and food wholesaling.

Infographic showing value of NT industry Infographic showing GSP Infographic showing persons employed Infographic show percentage of NT workforce


Economic contribution | Contribution to employment |  Retail trade | Wholesale trade | Explanatory notes

Economic contribution

In 2017-18, the retail and wholesale trade industry contributed $1.3 billion in real terms to the Northern Territory’s (NT’s) economy. As a percentage share of Gross State Product (GSP), the industry contributed 4.9% in 2017-18, only slightly below the 10‑year average of 5%.

Retail and wholesale trade expenditure in the NT has grown by an average of 4.2% per annum in the 10 years to 2017-18. In the past four years growth has moderated below the 10‑year average, but still increasing by 3.6% in 2014-15, 0.5% in 2015-16, was flat in 2016-17 and 2.2% in 2017-18 (Chart 1).

Contribution to employment

While the retail and wholesale trade industry contributes just under 5% of total NT GSP, it accounted for 9.8% or 13,528 of the total resident workforce in 2017-18. In 2018‑19, employment in retail and wholesale trade declined to 13,053 persons, however the share increased to 9.9% of the total resident workforce. Of these, more Territorians were employed in retail trade (82.3%) compared to wholesale trade (17.7%).

Recent data shows employment in the retail and wholesale industry in the NT declined by 3.5 per cent in 2018-19. This was largely driven by a decline in the retail trade sector (down 4.4%), partly offset by a slight increase in the wholesale trade sector (up 0.7%) (Chart 2). Retail and wholesale trade remains the Territory’s third largest employing industry.

Nationally, retail and wholesale trade, as a share of total employment, has generally trended downward since 2012‑13 with a share of 13.1% in 2018-19, below the 10‑year average of 13.9%. The main contributor to this share of employment is the retail industry, which consisted of 1,278,665 employed persons in 2018-19 and accounted for 10.0% of total employment.

Retail trade

For the latest available data and analysis about the NT’s retail market, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Retail trade economic brief.

In 2018-19, retail turnover in the NT decreased by 3.5% to $3.0 billion, remaining well below the 10‑year average growth rate of 0.8% (real terms) (Chart 3).

In 2018-19, the decrease in NT retail trade was the result of decreased spending on most categories, mainly:

The decrease in retail trade was slightly offset by increased spending on clothing, footwear and personal apparel (up 0.9%), contributing 5.7% to total retail turnover. (Chart 4).

Nationally, retail turnover increased by 1.2% to $320 billion in 2018-19. The main categories contributing growth in retail trade were clothing, footwear and personal apparel (up 3.8%), other retailing (up 2.4%), cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (up 1.4%), household goods (up 1.0%) and food retailing (up 0.4%).

Table 1 compares the changes in the NT’s retail spending in 2018-19, and the average annual change by sector over the past decade.

Wholesale trade

Wholesale trade is a smaller component of NT GSP and a much smaller share of employment relative to retail trade. Wholesale trade is the sale of new or used goods to businesses and institutional users, but excludes government users. Activity in the NT’s wholesale trade industry is mainly in industrial storage and equipment, transport and food wholesaling. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) does not publish disaggregated data on wholesale trade by jurisdiction.

Wholesale trade in the NT continues to contribute a smaller proportion (43.6% in 2017‑18) to the retail and wholesale trade industry than nationally (47.2%). In 2017-18, wholesale trade increased by 4.5% to $556 million, and was higher compared to 1.7% in 2016-17.  This modest increase was still well below the 10‑year historical average growth rate of 8.0% (Chart 5). Despite the relatively small size of the wholesale trade industry, it has more than doubled over the past 10 years likely due to the effect of major projects in the NT. Nationally, the value of wholesale trade increased by 0.7% in 2017-18, well below the 10‑year historical average growth of 2.6%.

Explanatory notes

The analysis on the components of retail activity is based on ABS data on retail trade, which is measured on a different basis to the GSP data. For the latest available data and analysis about the NT’s retail market, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Retail trade economic brief. This quarterly release is based on chain volume or inflation adjusted estimates and differs from the monthly statistics which are based on current prices.

There is no corresponding economic brief for wholesale trade industry and the ABS does not publish disaggregated data on wholesale trade by jurisdiction.

The ABS provides useful information and sources about the retail industries. The publication presents an estimate value of retail trade turnover for Australian businesses classified by industry, state and territory.