Retail turnover has fallen 17.7 percent in April, said a new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
This is a ‘minor revision’ to the fall of 17.9 percent published in the ABS’ preliminary retail turnover figures released on 20 May.
The fall follows an 8.5 percent rise in March 2020.
“COVID-19 continued to affect retail trade in April with many retail businesses closing their physical stores during April due to restrictions relating to social distancing,” said Ben James, the Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys.
Some of the biggest falls included department stores, which fell 14.9 percent and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, which dropped 53.6 percent.
Online retail now accounts for 11.1 percent of all retail turnover in original terms for April 2020. This is up from 7.1 percent of turnover in March this year. Moreover, turnover for April 2019 was 5.7 percent.
The analysis shows that there has been a 20.5 percent increase in online sales across ‘household goods retailing, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, department stores, and other retailing’.
“The March figures were propped up almost entirely by the large-scale panic buying taking place in supermarkets. It was feared that April would see the retail rollercoaster make a downward spiral and that is exactly what has happened,” said Dominique Lamb, the CEO of the National Retail Association.
“Across retail categories, there were big drops in sales for April and each state and territory went backwards on monthly turnover. There was a rise in online spending due to a naturally increased demand for digital purchases, but it was a drop in the ocean compared to the nosedive taken overall.”
A significant number of retail businesses did not trade at all in April, while others closed their physical stores and maintained trade online, said the report.
“As restrictions lift, we are encouraged to see Australia’s retail community shifting out of crisis towards recovery. Having confirmed that we are already in an economic recession, by all measures this recovery will be slow,” said Paul Zahra, the CEO of the Australian Retailer’s Association. “We saw some positive signs as restrictions began to ease in the second half of April, with more Australians venturing out to shopping centres and a pickup in consumer spending.”
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