ABS Retail Trade Figures for April Confirm Lockdown Impact as Retailers Shift into Winter Trading

The downturn in trading in the latest ABS Retail Trade Figures released today confirms the severe impact of April lockdowns on retailers, says Australian Retailers Association CEO Mr Paul Zahra.

The full ABS data released for April shows a 17.7% fall in estimated retail turnover from March 2020 to April 2020, with turnover falling 9.2% in April 2020 compared with the same period last year.

“As restrictions lift, we are encouraged to see Australia’s retail community shifting out of crisis towards recovery. Having confirmed that we are already in an economic recession, by all measures this recovery will be slow,” said Mr Zahra.

“We saw some positive signs as restrictions began to ease in the second half of April, with more Australians venturing out to shopping centres and a pickup in consumer spending.”

“The majority of our retail members have now reopened for business. Despite early reports of positive trading in May, we project significant financial difficulties will continue for retailers. In particular, we predict that the remainder of winter trade may at a topline be robust, however profitability will be a concern, which may force a number of retail closures.

“Retailers in discretionary categories are facing significant challenges, with yesterday’s GDP figures a preview of falls in discretionary goods. Retailers in the clothing, footwear and personal accessories categories have endured the largest decline in retail spending, recording a 64.7% year-on-year fall.

Mr Zahra said sharp declines in food retailing were unsurprising after the panic-buying that took place the previous month, as were declines in the cafe, restaurant and takeaway category which was severely impacted by restrictions.

Mr Zahra said retail recovery, particularly discretionary retail, is a bellwether for economic recovery.

“Our retail recovery is one of the most visible signs of economic recovery. Conversely, when stores close, the impact on our national mood is significant.

“Every Australian is invested in retail on some level. The retail sector is our largest private employer and many Australians started their careers in retail. Every Australian knows a retail worker, and we all have our favourite shops and retail brands.”

Monthly Retail Growth (March 2020 – April 2020, seasonally adjusted)

Department stores (-14.9%), Food retailing (-17.4%), Household goods retailing (-0.1%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (-35.4%), Other retailing (-14.4%), and Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-53.6%).

Western Australia (-16.9%), Australian Capital Territory (-14.9%), Queensland (-15.7%), Victoria (-21.1%), South Australia (-14.6%), Tasmania (-17.5%), New South Wales (-17.6%), and Northern Territory (-7.7%).

Overall month-on-month sales growth: -17.7%.

Year-on-Year Retail Growth (April 2019 – April 2020, seasonally adjusted)

Food retailing (5.1%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (-49.6%), Other retailing (1.1%), Household goods retailing (11.4%), and Department stores (-21.8%), and Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-64.7%).

Tasmania (-5.4%), Queensland (-5.0%), Victoria (-13.2%), Western Australia (-5.5%), Australian Capital Territory (-5.2%), South Australia (-6.4%), Northern Territory (3.4%), and New South Wales (-11.2%).

Overall year-on-year sales growth: -9.2%.

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