Retail has experienced a lift of 0.5 percent in February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported. This comes after poor results in December and January.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted retail in more than one way, including uplifts in essential categories such as food, health and household goods.
“Retailers reported a range of impacts from COVID-19 in February,” said Ben James, the Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys, “with increases in food retailing slightly offset by falls in more discretionary spending.”
Categories which experienced lifts include department stores (3.1 percent), food treating, 0.8 percent and household goods (0.7 percent). These were offset by the fall of fashion and footwear and personal accessory retailing, which dropped 2.7 percent.
While these results are positive, the recent weeks of isolation due to the outbreak may impact upcoming results.
“The results for February are quite good, but unfortunately they do not indicate a retail recovery given the events that have transpired in recent weeks,” said Dominique Lamb, the CEO of National Retail Association (NRA).
As a result of panic-buying in supermarkets, these essential retailers experienced a significant uplift in sales. “As the ABS notes, there was a significant increase in supermarket purchases in February due to the panic-buying that occurred. While this is good for those businesses it also means that the rise in turnover was most certainly not spread across the sector,” Lamb continued.
“And, of course, we had a number of restrictions placed on businesses in March to combat the health threat of COVID-19. This has seen many retailers either close their doors entirely, downsize their operations or offer only limited services.”
In seasonally adjusted terms, states across Australia experienced a lift in sales in Queensland (0.8 percent), Victoria (0.5 percent), Western Australia (1.2 percent), South Australia (0.4 percent), and the Australian Capital Territory (1.1 percent). Some states remain unchanged, such as New South Wales (0.0 percent) and Tasmania (0.0 percent). The Northern Territory fell 0.7 percent, seasonally adjusted.
The ABS reports that online retail now accounts for 6.6 percent of all retail purchases. In February 2019, online retail accounted for 5.6 percent of all retail spend.
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