The harsh impacts of state-imposed lockdowns during July have been laid bare in the latest retail trade figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with sales falling 2.7% compared to the previous month and dropping 3.1% compared to the same time last year.
Clothing, footwear and personal accessories was the hardest hit retail category, falling 15.4% in July compared to the previous month, followed by cafes, restaurants and takeaway food (down 12.3%), department stores (down 11.4%) and household goods (down 2.2%).
Food retailing, which includes supermarkets and groceries, increased 2.3%. There were year-on-year falls across those retail categories – apart from food retailing, which recorded a modest increase.
South Australia also suffers notable drop
Not surprisingly, the biggest drop in retail trade out of the states and territories was in NSW, with sales down 8.9% in July compared to the previous month, followed by South Australia (down 3.3%) and Queensland (down 0.9%).
Greater Sydney and surrounding areas were subject to stay-at-home orders in July, with Victoria, South Australia, parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory also going in and out of lockdown over the course of the month.
Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, said the lockdowns were taking a heavy toll on small businesses in particular, and the impacts are likely to be felt for many more months.
“Businesses have been left reeling from the Delta devastation and today’s figures confirm the severity of the lockdowns and the impacts they have on retail spending,” Zahra said.
Consumer confidence has been shattered
“Consumer and business confidence has been shattered by the recent outbreaks in multiple states, and the state and federal supports just haven’t been enough to save a number of businesses from closing their doors permanently.
“The lockdowns are also having an impact on employment, with payroll jobs falling by nearly 9% in Greater Sydney since the stay-at-home orders were introduced in late June, and a significant proportion of those losses were in the retail industry.
Zahra said vaccinations were the industry’s “ticket to freedom” and it was vital to reach the 70-80 percent thresholds that would trigger a reopening of businesses and society.