January retail spend up 10 per cent on last year, online up 63 per cent

Retail spending in January 2021 was 10.6 per cent higher than the same month in 2020, and 0.5 per cent higher than December, according to the latest figures revealed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Total turnover hit $30.5 billion during January, driven by strong demand in food and liquor retailing.

Supermarket and grocery stores rose 1.3 per cent during the month, while liquor rose 2.3 per cent and specialised food retailing rose 3.1 per cent.

Household goods, which are still trading well ahead of the same time last year due to the ‘nesting’ behaviour of many Australians following the pandemic, stayed relatively flat in January – rising 0.1 per cent.

Fashion retailing, however, fell 3.6 per cent during the month. This was largely due to a 6.1 per cent decrease in clothing purchases, while footwear and personal accessories sales rose 2 per cent.

Queensland was the only state to see sales dip during the month, a clear sign that even short lockdowns can have a massive impact, according to National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb.

“This is why a swift and safe rollout of the Covid vaccine is essential,” Lamb said.

“An efficient rollout of the COVID vaccine will be critical to removing the potential for hard lockdowns, providing business certainty and ensuring a timely economic recovery.”

And, due to the importance of e-commerce to the broader retail sector due to the ongoing shift in consumer behaviour, the ABS released additional analysis of Australia’s online sales for the month – reporting that online sales grew 1.6 per cent during January, following four months of consecutive falls.

Online retail as a whole remains far ahead of where it was a year ago, of course, up 62.8 per cent compared to January 2020.

Total online sales were 9.1% of total sales in January, which is relatively unchanged from December 2020, and pureplay online retailers made up 30 per cent of total online sales.

Estore logistics managing director Leigh Williams said that some state and international border restrictions continuing into 2021, it was no surprise that Australians wanted to find other ways to spend their money.

“With so much time being spent at home these days, it’s hardly surprising Aussies have turned to their tool bags to spruce up their living spaces, or splash out on a new piece of furniture,” Williams said.

“Despite some mini-lockdowns in parts of NSW in the run up to Christmas and early in the New Year, almost all physical stores were operating as normal, yet shoppers still preferred to buy online. The continued strong year-on-year growth across the country gives us even more confidence that the preference for online shopping is here to stay.”

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