August retail sales slump in locked down NSW and ACT

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Australian retail sales continued to slow in August, falling 1.7% compared to the previous month with sales also down 0.7% compared to the same time last year, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Year on year sales fell 17.4% in the ACT and 11.8% in NSW, demonstrating the impacts of the prolonged lockdowns. However, sales in Victoria were up 14.6% when compared to August 2020 when the state was suffering through its second wave.

There were year on year falls across most major categories of retail, with clothing, footwear and personal accessories down 17.4%, department stores down 15.9%, household goods down 5.9% and cafes, restaurants and take away food services down 0.8%. Food retailing bucked the trend, up 2.7% compared to August 2020.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said the lockdowns are continuing to impact trade in locked down parts of the country, but hope is on the horizon with reopening plans now in place ahead of Christmas.

“The figures released today by the ABS confirm what we already know in terms of the lockdowns and the devastating impact they have on consumer spending,” Mr Zahra said.

“Small businesses have been left reeling in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. They’ve been smashed by Delta and the existing government support measures are barely keeping them going. In contrast, retail sales are more upbeat in states that have been spared the pain of lockdowns.

“The reopening plans announced by the NSW, Victorian and ACT Governments provide some hope that businesses will be able to recover some of the substantial trading losses they’ve suffered in recent months, but for many, the impacts have been too much, and some won’t reopen at all.

“Unfortunately, there’s little consistency across the three reopening plans, which means there are different trigger points for when businesses can get back up and running again. We continue to call for an earlier reopening of retail in Victoria and the ACT when 70% of their populations are fully vaccinated, like what has been announced in NSW.

“Christmas is the most important time of year on the retail calendar – it’s when most discretionary retailers make up to two thirds of their profits for the year, and it’s crucial that businesses are given every opportunity to reopen and trade at their full potential in line with Covid safety requirements.”

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