Retail trade remains strong, but uncertain times ahead as JobKeeper ends

Friday 19 March 2021

Robust retail performance continued in February, with preliminary ABS figures released today showing $30.2 billion was spent on retail trade – an 8.7% increase compared to the same time last year.

While retail turnover fell 1.1% compared to the previous month, that was compounded by Covid restrictions in Victoria and Western Australia which resulted in a five-day shut down of non-essential retail in each state.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said retail sales have been incredibly strong overall in recent months, but the looming end of JobKeeper has many businesses, particularly SMB retailers on edge.

“JobKeeper ends in just over a week, and while the scheme has been incredibly successful in keeping businesses afloat and stimulus in the economy – the recovery hasn’t been felt evenly across all of retail,” Mr Zahra said.

“Our CBDs and travel retailers are in deep pain, with international tourists and students still missing and office occupancy rates – in Melbourne and Sydney in particular - still very low.

“That’s had a devastating impact on city retailers – there are less people going to their favourite cafes, shopping during their lunch breaks or even going out for dinner and drinks after work. The wind up of JobKeeper will only add to the pain these businesses are currently feeling with many forced to let go of workers.

“Travel retailers, like duty free shops in our airports are in crisis and haven’t been thrown a lifeline. They’re now in the process of shedding thousands of jobs.

“Whilst we have a lot to celebrate in Australia’s economic recovery – for SMB retail in particular, the real evaluation will be in the months ahead as to whether Covid affected businesses will be able to survive.”

Next steps:

The Bill will return to the House of Representatives, where it is expected that the Bill will pass in its amended form.

ENDS…for more details: Dominic Cuschieri 0418 224 072 (e)

About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $340bn sector employing more than 1.2m 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 or call 1300 368 041.

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