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Retail sales robust but softening sales expected with JobKeeper end

Retail trade remained strong during February, according to the latest ABS figures. But industry figures expect sales to soften in the months ahead following the end of the JobKeeper scheme.

Retail sales robust but softening sales expected with JobKeeper end
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  • Adrian Flores
  • April 07, 2021
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Retail turnover rose by 9.1 per cent compared with February 2020, according to the ABS.

A range of industries showed strong year-on-year growth, including household goods (up by $855 million or 18 per cent); clothing, footwear and personal accessories (up by $284 million or 14 per cent); department stores (up by $88 million or 6 per cent); and food retailing (up by $779 million or 7 per cent).

On the other hand, cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services were down by $88 million or 2 per cent.

Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said while JobKeeper has been a saviour, keeping businesses afloat through the worst of the pandemic, there are two cohorts of retail that are most at risk now that the wage subsidy is gone.

“The outlook for retail trade remains robust; however, the economic recovery is uneven and not everyone is benefiting from the same levels of spending,” Mr Zahra said.

“Travel retailers and SMBs in our CBDs continue to suffer and will be hardest hit by the end of JobKeeper coupled with the end of leasing protections.”

Mr Zahra said while it is encouraging to see the steady return of office workers to CBDs, occupation rates remain significantly lower than normal.

“Coupled with the absence of international visitors and lower domestic visitors within CBDs, the outlook remains devastating for these retailers — as it does for retailers reliant on global travel, with expectations around the return of international travel remaining in the distant future,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this group of retailers [is] a forgotten cohort, falling outside the existing government support schemes.”

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