March figures from ABS show giant jump before ominous fall.

The National Retail Association (NRA) has said that while today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) retail trade figures for March represent a giant jump in turnover, there are some incredibly ominous signs of the impact COVID-19 will have on the sector.

The figures show an 8.5 per cent overall rise in sales for March, however, the gains were confined to specific areas such as supermarkets and show devastating results across cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services, clothing, personal accessory and department stores.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said that the March figures needed to be put into context given the impact COVID-19 has had since then.

“March saw the peak in panic buying in supermarkets, particularly for items such as toilet paper, rice and pasta. Today’s report also shows a nosedive in sales for cafes, restaurants, takeaway food services, and clothing,” Ms Lamb said.

“April will be the first full month to incorporate the full extent of the lockdown restrictions, social distancing and the scaling down of services for cafes and restaurants. Retail is therefore bracing itself for very sobering results for April onwards.

“The panic buying peak is behind us, so supermarkets are likely to see a downwards correction in their sales from now on. This remains an unprecedented economic challenge and struggling retailers need as much support as possible from governments at all levels to survive the COVID-19 crisis.”