Retail sales rebounded strongly in May

The ABS has released its official retail sales data, which rebounded by a record 16.9% in May, which follows a record 17.7% decline in April:

According to the ABS:

“The gradual easing of social distancing regulations, and the re-opening of physical stores, bolstered retail trade in May,” said Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys.

“Retailers across a range of industries reported high numbers of consumers returning to stores, with some retailers noting levels similar to those seen in December.”

There were large month-on-month rises in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (129.2 per cent), and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (30.3 per cent), with both industries coming off very low levels of trade in April. Levels in these industries remain well below the same time last year.

Food retailing (7.2 per cent), household goods retailing (16.6 per cent), department stores (44.4 per cent) and other retailing (9.4 per cent) all recorded month-on-month rises in seasonally adjusted terms and are now at levels well above the same time last year. Retailers reported themes of continued spend on home improvements and high demand for recreational goods.

In seasonally adjusted terms the results were broadly consistent across the states. There were rises in New South Wales (16.5 per cent), Victoria (17.2 per cent), Queensland (16.6 per cent), Western Australia (19.7 per cent), South Australia (16.1 per cent), Tasmania (17.3 per cent), the Australian Capital Territory (12.2 per cent), and the Northern Territory (8.1 per cent), in May 2020.

Online sales contributed 10.1 per cent to total retail turnover, down on the 11.1 per cent contributed in April 2020, as physical stores reopened. This is still four percentage points higher than the 6.2 per cent seen in May 2019.

This result was expected, given it was flagged by the ABS’ preliminary sales data.

Leith van Onselen

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