retail transaction
Retail turnover rose 7.7% in May this year compared to the same time last year. Source: Canva.
  • Retail turnover rose 0.4% in May 2021
  • Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory recorded declines in monthly turnover
  • Turnover was affected by restrictions in the month prior

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), retail turnover rose 0.4% (seasonally adjusted) in May 2021 – up from the preliminary result of a 0.1% rise.

As expected, Australia is currently in a recovery phase – hopefully with the worst of the pandemic behind us – and so retail turnover has improved markedly with a 7.7% rise compared with May 2020.

Turnover included in the statistics are classified by four main types: retail sales, online sales, wholesale sales and takings from repairs, meals and hiring of goods.

Total level, current prices – seasonally adjusted terms and trend estimates

ABS monthly turnover
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

When breaking down the data by state, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory recorded declines in monthly turnover. New South Wales recorded a flat result (0.0 per cent) at the time of the preliminary release, changing to a 0.5 per cent rise for this final release.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys, said: “Retail turnover in May was impacted by the Victorian lockdown from May 28 onwards, as well as those states recovering from restrictions in April.”

Monthly turnover, current prices, by state and territory – seasonally adjusted estimate

ABS turnover May 2021
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

When breaking down the data by industry, food retail (supermarket, groceries, liquor, fresh meat and poultry), cafe and takeaway services, and other retailing (such as newspapers and books, sporting equipment, pharmaceuticals and stationery) recorded rises in monthly turnover (+1.1%, +0.7% and +0.7% respectively).

However, clothing and footwear remained unchanged, while household goods (furniture, electronic goods, hardware and gardening supplies) and department stores recorded slight declines (-1.1% and -0.7% respectively).

Both Queensland and Western Australia saw rises for five out of six industries, following restrictions in April.

Meanwhile, online retail also performed well. After a monthly decline of 3.5% in April, NAB’s Online Retail Sales Index rose 2.7%.

Year-on-year comparisons show the index accelerated in May by 6.8%, although this is not as high as the double-digit growth recorded in April.

NAB, combined with ABS data estimated in the 12 months to May that Australians spent $48.1 billion on online retail, a level around 13.2% of total retail trade (up from 12.6% in December 2020).

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