End of lockdowns drive retail sales up 4.9% in October: Australia

Australian retail turnover rose 4.9 per cent in October 2021, seasonally adjusted, according to the Retail Trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This follows September’s 1.3 per cent rise after falls of 1.7 per cent in August 2021, and 2.7 per cent in July 2021.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Statistics, said the 4.9 per cent increase was the strongest monthly rise since Victoria’s first lockdown bounce back in November 2020 with retail turnover rising to its highest level since June 2021, regaining most of the momentum lost prior to the COVID-19 Delta outbreak.

“Retail performance continues to be tied to state lockdowns as this month’s recovery was driven by the end of lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory,” Mr James said. “With lockdown ending on October 11, New South Wales sales rose 13.3 per cent returning to the levels seen in the months immediately prior to the Delta outbreak, while Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory remain below pre-Delta levels.”

“Although sales have bounced back strongly following the end of lockdowns, it is important to note that overall retail turnover has not yet reached the level of May 2021, the month prior to the Delta outbreak.”

As a result of lockdowns ending, strong rises were also seen in Victoria (3.0 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (20.2 per cent). Victoria’s rise comes from their state lockdown ending on October 22, while the Australian Capital Territory ended their lockdown on October 15.

Consumers have enthusiastically returned to discretionary spending, with rises in five of the industry categories. With physical stores open again, increased mobility and foot traffic led to strong rises in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (27.7 per cent), cafes restaurants and takeaway food services (12.3 per cent), department stores (22.4 per cent), household goods retailing (4.5 per cent), and other retailing (2.2 per cent).

Food retailing was the only industry to fall this month, down 0.5 per cent. This was in line with the pattern of previous post-lockdown results, where food retailing tends to fall as consumer spending returns to cafes, restaurants, and takeaways.

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