Retail sales volumes fell 0.5% in March quarter 2021: Australia

Retail sales volumes fell 0.5 per cent in the March quarter 2021, seasonally adjusted, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Retail Trade figures. This follows the 2.4 per cent rise in the December quarter 2020.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys, said “The quarterly volume fall was driven by households spending patterns gradually returning to those seen before COVID-19. Food retailing (-2.7 per cent) led the falls while household goods also fell (-1.6 per cent). The falls were partially offset by a rise in cafes, restaurants and takeaways (5.8 per cent), as eating out increased, while functions and events continued to return.”

Across the other industries, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0.7 per cent) fell, while there were rises for other retailing (0.4 per cent) and department stores (0.2 per cent).

State falls were led by New South Wales (-1.1 per cent), Queensland (-1.2 per cent) and Western Australia (-1.8 per cent), with volumes in Queensland and Western Australia in particular, impacted by lockdown periods within the quarter. Victoria (1.3 per cent) was the only state to rise, following restricted trade in the December quarter 2020.

Monthly turnover rose 1.3 per cent

Australian retail turnover rose 1.3 per cent in the March 2021 month, seasonally adjusted.

This updates the Preliminary result of 1.4 per cent, and follows a fall of 0.8 per cent in February 2021.

Mr James said: “Victoria (3.5 per cent) and Western Australia (5.5 per cent) led rises at the state and territory level, following falls in February associated with local coronavirus lockdowns. Queensland (-0.5 per cent), which saw a short lockdown at the end of March, partially offset these increases.”

By industry, cafes, restaurant and takeaway foods services (4.8 per cent), department stores (8.5 per cent), and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (5.4 per cent) led the rises, driven by growth in Victoria and Western Australia especially. A fall in food retailing (-0.9 per cent) partially offset these rises, with falls in both supermarkets and liquor retailing.

Online sales made up 9.4 per cent of total retail sales in March 2021. Online contributed to 7.1 per cent of total retail sales in March 2020.

The next release will be the Preliminary result for the month of April. Data will be released on 21 May 2021.

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