Department stores
Department stores saw turnover rise +8.5% last quarter (ABS). Image – Canva.
  • Monthly retail turnover rose 1.3% during the March quarter
  • Clothing, footwear and personal accessories fell, rises for department stores
  • Online sales up to 9.4% of total retail sales, from 7.1% a year ago

Monthly retail turnover rose 1.3% during the March quarter, seasonally adjusted, according to ABS data, although volumes were down 0.5% during the period, after a 2.4% rise in the December quarter.

Strangely, this suggests a kind of ‘return to normality’, according to Ben James, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys.

“The quarterly volume fall was driven by households spending patterns gradually returning to those seen before COVID-19. Food retailing (-2.7 per cent) led the falls while household goods also fell (-1.6 per cent).

The falls were partially offset by a rise in cafes, restaurants and takeaways (5.8 per cent), as eating out increased, while functions and events continued to return.”

Ben James, ABS Director

In other words, it is the expected seasonal activity we would normally have seen from retail, pre-pandemic.

Monthly retail turnover, seasonally adjusted

Monthly turnover seasonally adjusted
Source ABS

Clothing, footwear and personal accessories fell, although there were rises for other retailing and department stores.

Around the states, NSW, Queensland and WA all had falls of between one and two per cent, with volumes particularly affected in the latter two states, due to snap lockdowns. Victoria was the only state to see a rise in retail volumes, up 1.3%, recovering from its downturn in the December quarter.

On turnover, Victoria (+3.5%) and Western Australia (+5.5%) led the rises at the state and territory level. Queensland (-0.5%) fell, having had a short lockdown at the end of March.

Monthly retail turnover, by industry, seasonally adjusted

Monthly turnover industries
Source: ABS

By industry, the rises were led by:

  • cafes, restaurant and takeaway foods services +4.8%
  • department stores +8.5%
  • clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing +5.4%

These gains were mainly driven by Victoria and Western Australia. A fall in food retailing (-0.9%) partially offset these rises, with falls in both supermarkets and liquor retailing.

Online sales made up 9.4% of total retail sales in March 2021, whereas it was 7.1% at the start of the pandemic in March last year.

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