Retail sales recover in March: ABS

Retail sales rose 1.4 per cent during March, according to preliminary results released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Turnover rose 2.3 per cent when compared to March last year, said Ben James, ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys.

“Victoria and Western Australia led the rises, after Covid-19 lockdowns impacted retail sales in February 2021,” James said.

“Queensland saw a small fall, with Greater Brisbane impacted by lockdown restrictions [during March].”

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway foods led the preliminary increases, up 6 per cent, followed by clothing and department store retailing.

The result follows a 1.1 per cent fall in sales last month.

When compared to annual sales however, March came off worse than the result seen in February. Last month, the year-on-year growth hit 9.1 per cent, which fell to 2.3 per cent in March, reflecting the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions this time last year which caused a spike in ‘panic buying’ in food retailing that month.

Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said retail performance is underpinning Australia’s economic recovery, but that the full extent of the loss of JobKeeper and JobSeeker is still unclear.

“As expected, whilst we haven’t experienced a fiscal cliff, we have seen a softening of sales as we cycle the panic buying from the beginning of the pandemic,” Zahra said.

“The vaccination rollout is now imperative to boosting consumer confidence and safety. [However], there’s still a big question mark over what impact the removal of JobKeeper has had on the economy.

“The ABS job and retail figures that’ll be released in the months ahead will be our first indication as to what the real impact has been.”

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