Australian retail sales increased 9.4 percent in December, compared to the same time the previous year, according to preliminary data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, has called it “an incredible result”, given the Covid challenges businesses faced over the Christmas shopping period.
“We knew Christmas this year would be a challenge, given the threat of the virus, so it’s fantastic to see a year-on-year increase of 9.4%,” Zahra said.
Year-on-year a more accurate reflection
“The month-to-month data can be volatile, so we shouldn’t be disheartened by the fact retail turnover fell 4.2% in December compared to November. The year-on-year figure is a more accurate reflection of what retailers experienced over Christmas compared to the previous year.”
Zahra said he believed the result showed retailers had recouped some of the losses they incurred during the worst of the Covid lockdowns and restrictions in 2020. It also set them up for a more prosperous 2021.
Pleasing result given the Sydney lockdown
It was also pleasing given that in-store traffic was down in CBD shopping centres due to the threat of the virus. That was particularly the case in NSW, after the outbreak on the Northern Beaches forced people to shop locally or online.
Overall, there was good momentum in the market and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) was cautiously optimistic for the year ahead.
“According to ARA partner Roy Morgan, confidence in the retail industry increased significantly from October to December – up nearly 70% – the biggest increase in that period compared to all other industries,” Zahra noted.
Biggest month in Australia Post’s history
“ARA member Australia Post also reported December as its biggest month in history, with more than 52-million parcels delivered – an almost 20 percent increase on the previous year.
“Having said that, the threat of the virus remains. And even when the vaccine is rolled out we’re going to be living with Covid for some time, so some of the existing challenges will remain for retailers,” Zahra said.
The ARA is Australia’s largest retail association and has 7,500 independent and national retail members.