Stable retail sales data belies plight of small businesses, says ARA chief

Retailers are still vulnerable to Covid impacts, says ARA CEO. Image: @Dari via Twenty20

Stable retail sales data for May have been welcomed by the Australian Retailers Association – but the body warns smaller businesses are still vulnerable to the impacts of Covid-19.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released today, Australian retail sales were up 7.4 per cent on the same month last year – and by 0.1 per cent month on month – to $31 billion.  

However ARA CEO Paul Zahra said concerns remain over how small retailers will cope with the ongoing Covid crisis. 

“It’s pleasing to see retail sales overall on a positive trajectory, albeit at a slower pace. However, what the figures don’t show us is the uneven recovery for many small businesses, including those within CBDs and travel retail,” he said.

“The preliminary figures released today show differing results across the states as Covid continues to impact business performance depending on where they’re located.”

Sales were down by 1.5 per cent in Victoria as the state entered its fourth lockdown at the end of May, but this was offset by increases in Queensland and WA, both recording improvements of 1.5 per cent. 

“Every lockdown comes at a significant cost, and there is now no safety net for retailers,” said Zahra. “As we’ve seen over the past month in Victoria, and now in Sydney – the Covid threat is far from over and new cases can quickly emerge despite our best efforts to contain the virus.”

He said Sydney businesses, especially, are on edge given new Covid cases detected during the past week. 

“We know that whenever new Covid cases pop up in the community, foot traffic through retail stores tumble as people limit their movements and work from home if they can.

“The ongoing Covid impacts highlight just how critical the vaccine rollout is to ensuring businesses can trade with confidence.”

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