ABS Preliminary Retail Trade Figures for April Down 18% and 9% YoY

Media Release

Results reflect the severe impact of lockdown

The significant downturn in trading revealed in the latest ABS Preliminary Retail Trade Figures released today reflects the severe impact of lockdowns and retail closures, says ARA CEO Mr Paul Zahra.

ABS data released for April shows a 17.9% fall in estimated retail turnover from March 2020 to April 2020, with turnover falling 9.4% in April 2020 compared with the same period last year. This result is the strongest seasonally adjusted month-on-month fall in the history of the ABS series.

“These figures, whilst painful to see, are no surprise given the anticipated, brutal impact of the pandemic on our retail sector with most stores closed during this reporting period,” said Mr Zahra. “We are only beginning to enter into the retail reopening period in May as non-essential physical retail stores begin to reopen around the country.”

Mr Zahra said early reports of foot traffic and sales during May have been positive, but cautioned against reading too much into the numbers across the March to May period.

“Retail turnover is always an early gauge of overall consumer sentiment and our economic wellbeing. However the March to May figures occurred during an unprecedented ‘business as unusual’ period globally.

“Looking ahead, as we commence our recovery, we feel there is reason to feel cautiously optimistic.  We are encouraged by the obvious enthusiasm from Australians to return to physical stores – as reflected in the crowds of shoppers in stores around the country over recent weekend trading. However, our retail recovery will be slow and will track alongside our economic recovery which remains in unchartered territory globally for the short term at least.”

Sharp falls were not unexpected in the food retailing category, given the panic-buying that took place the previous month. Declines in the cafe, restaurant and takeaway category were also unsurprising, as the sector bore the brunt of forced closures due to restrictions.

In the second half of April, we began to see an easing of restrictions and positive signs as Australians began to venture out of their homes. Foot-traffic in shopping centres and consumer spending began to improve late in the month and into early May, which is cause for optimism as more and more Australians return to their shopping habits.


ENDS: to interview Mr Zahra, or for more details: Tim Janczuk (m) 0431 045 373 (e) media@retail.org.au

About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $325bn sector employing more than 1.3m people. As Australia’s premier retail body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members. To learn more, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.





ABS statistics reveal:

Current prices

  • The fall in seasonally adjusted terms in April 2020 was driven by the Food retailing industry, which fell 17.1% (-$2,444.3m) in April, following a 24.1% rise in March 2020. Sales in Food retailing are 5% above the level of April 2019.
  • Analysis of supermarket and grocery store scanner data shows that monthly retail turnover fell in original terms for Non-Perishable Goods, Perishable Goods and All Other Products by 23.7%, 15.3% and 24.5% respectively in April 2020 compared to March 2020. These falls follow significant unprecedented demand in March 2020 where Non-Perishable Goods rose 39.0%, Perishable Goods rose 21.6% and All Other Products rose 30.5%.
  • The April month saw further strong falls in Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services and Clothing, footwear and personal accessories retailing. Businesses reported that regulations regarding social distancing measures limited their ability to trade as normal for the entire month. Turnover in Clothing, footwear and personal accessories, and Cafes, restaurants and takeaways in April 2020 is around half the level of April 2019.
  • April also saw a strong result for Online retailing, with 10% of total retail turnover purchased online.

Full ABS stats available here.

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