Retail trade remains positive but Covid shocks continue to impact business

Monday 21 June 2021

Preliminary figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show $31 billion was spent in stores and online in May – an increase of 0.1% compared to the previous month and up 7.4% on the same time last year.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said whilst there is a lot to be pleased about in retails year on year growth, concerns remain over how small retailers will weather the ongoing Covid storm.

“It’s pleasing to see retail sales overall on a positive trajectory, albeit at a slower pace. However, what the figures don’t show us is the uneven recovery for many small businesses, including those within CBDs and travel retail,” Mr Zahra said.

“The preliminary figures released today show differing results across the states as Covid continues to impact business performance depending on where they’re located. Sales fell 1.5% in Victoria as the state entered its fourth lockdown at the end of May. This was offset by rises in Queensland and Western Australia – both up 1.5%

“Every lockdown comes at a significant cost, and there is now no safety net for retailers. As we’ve seen over the past month in Victoria, and now in Sydney – the Covid threat is far from over and new cases can quickly emerge despite our best efforts to contain the virus.

“Consumer confidence faded in response to the most recent lockdown in Victoria and there are still restrictions in place limiting businesses from trading at their full potential – in particular cafes and hospitality businesses.

“Sydney businesses are also on edge given the new cases that have emerged over the past week. We know that whenever new Covid cases pop up in the community, foot traffic through retail stores tumble as people limit their movements and work from home if they can.

“The ongoing Covid impacts highlight just how critical the vaccine rollout is to ensuring businesses can trade with confidence.”

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