CANBERRA, AAP – A surge in the purchase of shoes, clothes and takeaway food as lockdowns eased has lifted retail sales in September.
The 1.3 per cent pickup in retail turnover reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for September was the first monthly rise since May.
It followed falls of 1.7 per cent in August and 2.7 per cent in July, as the Delta outbreak took hold in parts of the country.
Clothing and footwear was up 5.9 per cent, while cafes and takeaway food rose five per cent.
“Retail turnover continues to vary by state, based on whether restrictions were imposed, removed or extended,” Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Ben James said on Friday.
“Queensland sales rose to their highest level ever, up 5.2 per cent, with no lockdowns in September.”
NSW had a rise of 2.3 per cent despite lockdowns, as some restrictions were eased or lifted.
A full month of lockdown restrictions in Victoria and the ACT resulted in a fall in sales, with Victoria down 2.1 per cent – to its lowest level since October 2020 – and the ACT down 12 per cent.
Over the quarter, retail sales values fell 4.4 per cent.
National Retail Association chief Dominique Lamb said the ACT government had engaged in a “massive over-reach” in its business restrictions, which not only closed stores but also hit online sales.
But she said across the country there should be a lift in trade in stores and online leading to Christmas.
Capital Economics’ Ben Udy said the bounce back should continue in October.
“As vaccination rates rise we expect retail sales, and consumption more generally, to continue to strengthen,” he said.
“We’ve pencilled in a 3.5 per cent rebound in consumption in the fourth quarter.”
Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is confident Australia can avoid a second coronavirus-driven recession.
Figures released on Friday showed an improvement to the budget bottom line in September of $7.8 billion, taking the deficit to $31.7 billion.
“It’s off the back of more people getting into work and off the back of more businesses reopening and that is a positive sign for our economy,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.
The treasurer said a stronger-than-expected labour market was helping to drive the economic recovery after the pandemic.
“That’s what should give a lot of people confidence about the coming months, and indeed the economic recovery into next year,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“We’re not without challenges, but we can also go forward with a lot of confidence.”
Mr Frydenberg said a key measure for the country to avoid a second recession was a rise in company and personal tax receipts, which defied predictions.
Total receipts were $19.5 billion higher than the 2012/22 budget profile, while payments were $11.7 billion higher.