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Lockdown recovery drives record 8.2% quarterly rise in retail sales

Australian retail sales volumes rose a record 8.2 per cent in the December quarter 2021, seasonally adjusted, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This follows a 4.4 per cent fall in the September quarter 2021.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Statistics, said the 8.2 per cent increase in retail sales volumes is the strongest quarterly rise on record, surpassing the previous record set in the September 2020 quarter. Sales volumes are now at their highest quarterly level of the series, up 3.4 per cent on the June quarter 2021, and 3.6 per cent through the year.

“Consumers enthusiastically returned to discretionary spending following the end of Delta related lockdowns in October, and the continued easing of restrictions over the quarter. Well publicised concerns over product availability and delivery timeliness led to consumers bringing forward their end of year shopping, in conjunction with a re-opening spending splurge due to pent up consumer demand.

“This post lockdown recovery aligns well with the previous nationwide Covid lockdown recovery in the September quarter 2020 where sales rose 6.3 per cent, more than recovering the losses of the June 2020 quarter fall of 3.5 per cent” Mr James said.

The quarterly rise was driven by the spending in the discretionary industries, all of which saw a sharp fall in the September quarter. Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing had the largest rise (43.1 per cent), followed by cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (18.8 per cent), household goods retailing (9.0 per cent), department stores (25.0 per cent), and other retailing (6.8 per cent), in seasonally adjusted volume terms (see Media notes for further information).

Food retailing (1.6 per cent) was the only industry, discretionary or non-discretionary, to fall, with consumers reducing their grocery spending and returning to hospitality venues and dining out.

The release of constrained consumer demand post-lockdown saw New South Wales (15.3 per cent), and Victoria (10.2 per cent) record the largest volume rises of all the states and territories. The Australian Capital Territory recorded a 12.4 per cent rise, having also been significantly impacted by lockdowns in the previous quarter.

There also continues to be underlying strength in states and territories that were largely able to avoid extended Delta lockdowns, with rises in the December quarter for all except Tasmania (-1.2 per cent). Queensland rose 3.0 per cent, followed by Western Australia (1.6 per cent), South Australia (1.1 per cent), and the Northern Territory (0.9 per cent).

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