SYDNEY, AAP – Retail sales in Australia have soared to 8.2 per cent in the December quarter, helped by festive shopping as cafes and restaurants reopened from Delta lockdowns in NSW and Victoria.

Retail sales volumes climbed to the strongest quarterly rise on record, surpassing the previous mark set in the September 2020 quarter, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

“Consumers enthusiastically returned to discretionary spending following the end of Delta related lockdowns in October, and the continued easing of restrictions over the quarter,” said Ben James, the ABS director of quarterly economy-wide statistics.

“Well publicised concerns over product availability and delivery timeliness led to consumers bringing forward their end of year shopping, in conjunction with a re-opening spending splurge due to pent up consumer demand,” he added.

The result beat economists’ expectations of a 7.8 per cent rise, on average, in sales.

Retailers had earlier flagged $60 billion of spending in shops and online over the Christmas trading period, that typically runs from mid-November until the end of December.

According to the ABS data, the quarterly rise was driven by spending in the discretionary industries, all of which had seen a sharp fall in the September quarter when overall spending had declined 4.4 per cent.

Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing had the largest rise, surging 43.1 per cent, while spending on cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services also soared 18.8 per cent during the December quarter.

Household goods retailing was up 9.0 per cent, department stores spending climbed 25.0 per cent, while other retail spending was up 6.8 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms.

New South Wales recorded the largest volume rise of 15.3 per cent, followed by Victoria at 10.2 per cent and the ACT with 12.4 per cent.

Queensland rose 3.0 per cent, followed by Western Australia (1.6 per cent) and South Australia (1.1 per cent). Tasmania was the only state or territory to record a decline in spending, down 1.2 per cent.