Australian retail sales increased 1.7% in September compared to the same time last year, and increased 1.3% compared to the previous month. This is according to figures released on Friday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Despite the uplift, discretionary retail results reflected the impact of extended lockdowns. Department stores and clothing, footwear and personal accessories recorded the sharpest year-on-year falls out of the retail categories (down 16.9% and 11.4% respectively).
However, there were modest year-on-year increases for food retailing, household goods and cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
ACT had the biggest regional sales decline
Analysing statistics from of the individual states and territories, the ACT recorded the sharpest decline in retail sales for September compared to the same month last year – down 26.2%. NSW, which was also battling through a lockdown in September, recorded drop of 8.9%.
Victoria – also locked down – recorded a 12.9% increase in sales. However, this figure is skewed because of the state’s lockdown of 100-plus days that occurred in 2020.
As anticipated, jurisdictions that have been spared the pain of prolonged lockdowns are continuing to enjoy positive year-on-year sales growth, the Australian Retailers’ Association said in a commentary.
The association’s CEO, Paul Zahra, said with the worst of the lockdowns now behind us, the country’s retailers were looking to capitalise on pent-up demand in the lead up to Christmas.
Pent-up demand should boost Festive sales
“The retail recovery is underway in NSW and the ACT, which emerged from lockdowns in recent weeks. We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in those locations with people getting back out and about, enjoying their freedoms. We expect retail sales to accelerate even further [as] Melbourne retailers throw open their doors.
“While the ABS figures are looking back at a lockdown month, retailers have got their sights firmly set on Christmas, which is a time when many discretionary retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits.”
Zahra said it was not surprising that there were sharp declines in September compared to 12 months ago for department stores and clothing, footwear and personal accessories. These were business sectors that had been significantly impacted by the lockdowns, but were now looking forward to making up for the substantial trading losses over the festive period.
“Our research in conjunction with Roy Morgan shows Australians are forecast to spend nearly $59-billion in the pre-Christmas sales period, which is in line with last year’s spend, but well up on pre-pandemic conditions.
“The overall trend is looking positive, with retailers looking to cash in on the pent-up demand that exists across the economy,” he stated.