Retail Sales March 2021

As retailers across the country eagerly anticipate tomorrow night’s Federal Budget, sales across Australia rose by 1.3 per cent in the month of March according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

However, retail sales volumes for the March 2021 quarter fell by 0.5 per cent as shoppers cut back on discretionary purchases and return to pre-pandemic spending patterns.

National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said the March figures demonstrate that it is still a volatile time for retailers.

“The 12 months to March 2021 has undoubtedly been the most turbulent period retail has experienced in living memory,” Ms Lamb said.

“Panic-buying, lockdowns, supply chain disruptions and myriad other challenges has at times seen retail sales go wildly from one extreme to the other. But we’re now starting to see shoppers slowly return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits.

“Lockdowns continue to have a material effect on retail sales. Both Victoria and Western Australia surged in March following February lockdowns in both states, while the three-day Brisbane lockdown plunged Queensland into negative turnover for the month.”

Ahead of tomorrow night’s Federal Budget, Ms Lamb said retailers would like to see measures that maintain healthy levels of discretionary spending.

“Discretionary spending reached unprecedented levels at the end of 2020. An inability to travel overseas, coupled with stimulus measures, saw shoppers stampede retail outlets during the traditionally busy Christmas period,” Ms Lamb said.

“While it was always expected that spending levels would begin to taper off, we need to ensure consumer spending does not fall off a cliff and we hope to see measures in the Budget that address this.

“Extending the tax offset for low and middle income earners for a further 12 months will help to encourage consumer spending. While we also hope to see initiatives that help small business and encourage economic activity.

“Maintaining a strong level of demand will be crucial to ensuring a quick economic recovery and help to safeguard jobs in Australia’s second-largest workforce.”