Retail sales declined 2.7% in July

Australian retail turnover fell 2.7% in July 2021, seasonally adjusted, according to the Retail Trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This was the largest monthly decline this year and follows a fall of 1.8% in June 2021, after a rise of 0.4% in May 2021.

Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys Ben James says, “Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in many parts of Australia continued to impact retail trade in July, with many non-essential retail businesses closing their physical stores. In particular, the first full month of lockdown in New South Wales, following the Delta outbreak in June, saw retail turnover in the state fall 8.9%. This was the largest fall of any state and territory since August 2020.”

Other states and territories under coronavirus restrictions for at least part of the month saw varying results with South Australia (-3.3%) and Queensland (-0.9%) experiencing declines. All other states and territories experienced increases with the strongest in Victoria (1.3%). Victorian turnover increased as some restrictions from the prior month were eased further in early July, however, sales remained subdued due to a 12-day lockdown from mid to late July.

By industry, the largest declines were in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (-12.3%), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-15.4%), and department stores (-11.4%). These industries were highly impacted by physical store closures.

Food retailing (2.3%) saw the largest rise as coronavirus restrictions kept households at home, limiting their mobility. Other retailing (0.6%) also rose, in part due to additional online sales.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra says the lockdowns are 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,” Mr Zahra said.

“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.

“Vaccinations are our ticket to freedom and we need to get as many people jabbed as quickly as possible to reach the 70 and 80% thresholds that will trigger a reopening of businesses and society.

“We’re pleased to see Pfizer approved for all Australians aged 12 years and over, which gives access to our younger retail workforce who were previously not eligible.”

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