COVID restrictions hammer retail again in July as turnover falls nearly 3 per cent

COVID restrictions hammer retail again in July as turnover falls nearly 3 per cent

Australian retail turnover fell 2.7 per cent in July 2021 according to the latest figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) - the largest monthly dip this year.

New South Wales saw the biggest drop in retail trade out of all the states and territories, with sales down 8.9 per cent in July compared to the previous months, followed by South Australia (down 3.3 per cent) and Queensland (down 0.9 per cent).

All other states and territories experienced rises with the strongest in Victoria (up 1.3 per cent). Victorian turnover rose as some restrictions from the prior month were eased further in early July, however, sales remained subdued due to a twelve-day lockdown from mid to late July.

“Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in many parts of Australia continued to impact retail trade in July, with many non-essential retail businesses closing their physical stores,” ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys Ben James said.

“In particular, the first full month of lockdown in New South Wales, following the Delta outbreak in June, saw retail turnover in the state fall 8.9 per cent.

“This was the largest fall of any state and territory since August 2020."

By industry, the largest falls were in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (down 12.3 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (down 15.4 per cent), and department stores (down 11.4 per cent).

Food retailing saw a rise in sales of 2.3 per cent as COVID restrictions kept people at home, limiting their mobility.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said the lockdowns are taking a heavy toll on small businesses in particular, and the impacts are likely to be felt for many more months.

“Businesses have been left reeling from the Delta devastation and today’s figures confirm the severity of the lockdowns and the impacts they have on retail spending,” Zahra said.

“Consumer and business confidence has been shattered by the recent outbreaks in multiple states, and the state and federal supports just haven’t been enough to save a number of businesses from closing their doors permanently.

“The lockdowns are also having an impact on employment, with payroll jobs falling by nearly 9 per cent in Greater Sydney since the stay-at-home orders were introduced in late June, and a significant proportion of those losses were in the retail industry.”

Updated at 2.49pm AEST on 27 August 2021.

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