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August retail figures show impact of prolonged lockdowns

National retail sales fell 1.7 per cent in August compared to a month prior, and slowed 0.7 per cent compared to the same time last year.

The data, care of the ABS, demonstrates the prolonged impact lockdowns around the country are having on the retail industry: clothing, footwear and personal accessories sales fell 17.4 per cent, department stores 15.9 per cent, household goods 5.9 per cent and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food 0.8 per cent.

Food retailing rose 2.7 per cent, and Victoria bucked the lockdown trend by enjoying a sales increase of 14.6 per cent on last year – when the state was suffering its second lockdown.

“Retail turnover continues to be negatively impacted by lockdown restrictions, with each of the eastern mainland states experiencing falls in line with their respective level of restrictions,” said ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys Ben James.

“In direct contrast, states with no lockdowns performed well with Western Australia and South Australia enjoying strong rises as physical stores were open for trade.”

Retail brought in $29 billion during August.

Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said the figures confirm what we already know: small businesses have been left reeling from lockdowns, and that while there are roadmaps to reopen to follow in the months ahead, businesses will now have to deal with multiple starting points around the country.

“There’s little consistency across the three reopening plans,” Zahra said.

“Christmas is the most important time of the year on the retail calendar – it’s when most discretionary retailers make up to two thirds of their profits for the year, and it’s crucial that businesses are given every opportunity to reopen and trade at their full potential in line with Covid safety requirements.”

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