Results reflect the severe impact of lockdown
The significant downturn in trading revealed in the latest ABS Retail Trade Figures released today reflects the severe impact of lockdowns and retail closures, says ARA CEO Mr Paul Zahra.
ABS data released for April shows a 17.9% fall in estimated retail turnover from March 2020 to April 2020, with turnover falling 9.4% in April 2020 compared with the same period last year. This result is the strongest seasonally adjusted month-on-month fall in the history of the ABS series.
“These figures, whilst painful to see, are no surprise given the anticipated, brutal impact of the pandemic on our retail sector with most stores closed during this reporting period,” said Mr Zahra. “We are only beginning to enter into the retail reopening period in May as non-essential physical retail stores begin to reopen around the country.”
Mr Zahra said early reports of foot traffic and sales during May have been positive, but cautioned against reading too much into the numbers across the March to May period.
“Retail turnover is always an early gauge of overall consumer sentiment and our economic wellbeing. However the March to May figures occurred during an unprecedented ‘business as unusual’ period globally.
“Looking ahead, as we commence our recovery, we feel there is reason to feel cautiously optimistic. We are encouraged by the obvious enthusiasm from Australians to return to physical stores – as reflected in the crowds of shoppers in stores around the country over recent weekend trading. However, our retail recovery will be slow and will track alongside our economic recovery which remains in unchartered territory globally for the short term at least.”
Sharp falls were not unexpected in the food retailing category, given the panic-buying that took place the previous month. Declines in the cafe, restaurant and takeaway category were also unsurprising, as the sector bore the brunt of forced closures due to restrictions.
In the second half of April, we began to see an easing of restrictions and positive signs as Australians began to venture out of their homes. Foot-traffic in shopping centres and consumer spending began to improve late in the month and into early May, which is cause for optimism as more and more Australians return to their shopping habits.