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Retail rises 16.3 per cent to $28.8 billion in May

Australian retail rose 16.3 per cent in May 2020, or around $4 billion, to $28.8 billion – the largest seasonally adjusted rise seen in the almost four decades of the retail trade survey, according to preliminary results from the ABS. 

The increase was seen across every industry after the sector suffered a 17.7 per cent fall in April 2020 due to lockdown measures closing most of the industry down.

After months of difficult conditions, clothing, footwear and personal accessories saw a large monthly lift in sales – more than 100 per cent, but remains more than 20 per cent down on the same period of 2019. 

Cafes and restaurants also saw sales grow by 30 per cent compared to last month, though remain around 30 per cent behind 2019.

Food retailing also grew 7.2 per cent over the month as households continued to consume additional food and beverages at home, and household goods retailing, with increased spending on furniture, home offices and home improvement. 

The result should be encouraging for an industry beset by difficult trading conditions, though it is likely that the results will normalise in the months ahead, as Government stimulus measures fall away and consumers become more careful with their money.

NRA chief executive Dominique Lamb said while a rise in sales was guaranteed to happen as shops reopened, the industry needed to keep an eye on the broader context.

“These figures were recorded following the worse month on record in April 2020… The fact is many retailers are still struggling to cope following the economic impact of COVID-19 and Australia is entering its first recession since 1991,” Lamb said.

“The JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs have also helped keep ticking things along, but these are only temporary measures which won’t maintain strong consumer confidence. The NRA will continue to urge the Government to be judicious in when and how they unwind these schemes to prevent businesses closing and jobs being lost.”

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