Retail sales dive in June as lockdowns bite

More Sydney retailers were forced to close from Sunday under stricter lockdown rules. Picture: Adam Yip
More Sydney retailers were forced to close from Sunday under stricter lockdown rules. Picture: Adam Yip

Retail sales slumped by $575m in June as lockdowns forced shoppers and diners to stay home – a much larger than anticipated fall ahead of what will be an even more difficult July for retailers.

A 3.5 per cent plunge in Victorian sales drove the national slowdown, followed by a 2 per cent plunge in NSW, the preliminary Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed, as residents of both states were subject to stay-at-home orders for parts of the month.

Melbourne was in lockdown – its fourth – for two weeks from late May, then it was the turn of residents of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin later in June. Border restrictions would have also weighed on spending, the ABS said.

Queensland retail turnover dropped by 1.5 per cent, seasonally adjusted figures revealed.

The national 1.8 per cent drop in turnover in June to $30.6bn was more than twice the consensus forecast for a 0.7 per cent fall.

Food sales lifted by 1.5 per cent as residents in lockdown states stocked up on supplies – the only industry to record a gain – the ABS said.

Despite the reverse, retail turnover remained 2.9 per cent higher than a year earlier, and about 10 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.

Retailers in the country’s two most populous states will be bracing for an even larger drop in business this month.

Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said “we fear the worst is yet to come … small businesses in particular are in crisis and bearing the full brunt of lockdowns.”

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