Retail sales set to soften

Retail sales saw an increase of 9.1% through the year to February, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

However, sales are expected to soften in the coming months as JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement conclude.

There was strong year on year growth across the major categories of retail:

  • Household goods (up $855m or 18%)
  • Clothing, footwear and personal accessories (up $284m or 14%)
  • Department stores (up $88m or 6%)
  • Foot retailing (up $779m or 7%)
  • Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services were down $88m or 2%.

“The outlook for retail trade remains robust, however the economic recovery is uneven and not everyone is benefiting from the same levels of spending,” CEO of ARA Paul Zahra says.

“Travel retailers and SMBs in our CBDs continue to suffer and will be hardest hit by the end of JobKeeper coupled with the end of leasing protections.”

Mr Zahra continues by saying that while it’s encouraging to see the steady return of office workers to CBDs, “coupled with the absence of international visitors and lower domestic visitor within CBDs, the outlook remains devastating for these retailers – as it does for retailers reliant on global travel, with expectations around the return of international travel remaining in the distance future.

“Unfortunately, this group of retailers are a forgotten cohort, falling outside the existing government support schemes.”

Despite setbacks, most retailers have been resilient through the Covid pandemic says Mr Zahra.

“The retail figures for February are encouraging, and while we don’t expect a ‘fiscal cliff’ with the removal of JobKeeper, we do expect sales to soften in the coming months and some businesses are unfortunately in the process of letting people go which will impact broader consumer spending, as will the reduced JobSeeker payments.

“Some retailers could see year on year sales soften as a result of the increased levels of panic buying we saw around this time in 2020.”

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