‘Mixed’ retail sales in September

There were “mixed” retail sales results in September and a “stark contrast” in year-on-year spending growth across the states, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment.

Retail sales across the country were down 0.8% when compared to September last year. They were, however, up 6.1% on pre-pandemic levels compared to September 2019.

Lockdown’s impact  

Spending continues to be impacted in the jurisdictions where lockdowns have been in place.

Sales in the ACT fell sharply (down 33.2%) in September compared to the same time last year. Sales in NSW were down 10%.

Sales in Victoria, however, were up 7.9% compared to September 2020, when the state was suffering through its second wave 100-plus day 2020 lockdown.

The states that have been spared the pain of lockdowns are faring much better with Western Australia (up 6%), Queensland (up 2.1%) and South Australia (up 3.3%) seeing sales growth when compared to September 2020.

Department stores (down 14.5%) and clothing (down 10%) recorded sharp downturns in the year-on-year comparison. There were increases, though, for household goods (up 8.9%) and food retailing (up 1%).

Christmas trade critical  

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra says with Christmas just 65 days away, discretionary retailers will be looking to make up for the substantial trading losses they’ve suffered in the locked down states during the busy festive shopping season.

“With retail back up and running in NSW, the ACT and with Victoria to follow suit, businesses are looking to cash in with the return of customers for the Christmas shopping rush – the most critical time of year on the retail calendar,” he says.

“It’s been a hellish three months or so for many people and businesses, but there’s pent-up demand in parts of the country that have been locked down and people are looking forward to getting back out, shopping and supporting their favourite businesses. We’re seeing this now in NSW with people out of lockdown and enjoying life once again.

“The lockdowns have had a significant impact on discretionary retailers and department stores in particular, which recorded the sharpest decline in year-on-year sales out of the categories of retail. Christmas is a time when most discretionary retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits for the year – so, this is a crucial period that could make or break many businesses and it’s important they get the opportunity to trade at their full potential, in line with Covid-safe requirements.”

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