Retail trade continues to aid Australia’s economic recovery

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Australian retail sales remain favourable with preliminary ABS figures released today showing $30.7 billion was spent in stores and online in March – a 2.3% increase compared to the same time last year.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said retail performance is underpinning Australia’s economic recovery, but the full extent of the end of Federal Government support including JobKeeper and JobSeeker is still unclear.

“The retail industry has been resilient throughout Covid, navigating its way through state-imposed lockdowns and restrictions – and despite all the challenges that have been thrown at them, many of these businesses are helping drive Australia’s economic recovery,” Mr Zahra said.

“As expected, whilst we haven’t experienced a fiscal cliff, we have seen a softening of sales as we cycle the panic buying from the beginning of the pandemic. The vaccination rollout is now imperative to boosting consumer confidence and safety.

“The sector as a whole is tracking well, but there are two cohorts of retail we remain deeply concerned about. Travel retailers continue to have their businesses decimated by international border closures, and while the travel bubble with New Zealand is a small relief – we know that global travel patterns aren’t expected to return to normal until 2024.

“While office occupancy rates are slowly improving, helping drive foot traffic through popular CBD shopping strips – the Melbourne and Sydney CBDs are still a concern as a large number of people choose to work from home. This continues to heavily impact CBD retailers – and small business operators in particular.

“There’s still a big question mark over what impact the removal of JobKeeper has had on the economy. There were one million people and 370,000 businesses still accessing the scheme in its final month. The ABS job and retail figures that’ll be released in the months ahead will be our first indication as to what the real impact has been.”

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