Retail struggle in January 2020

It’s traditional in our first newsletter each January to wish members and all retailers a happy new year.  I think though, those words carry a special significance in 2021. After the most challenging calendar year in memory, I think we are all looking forward to a “new” year – one where we can focus more on doing what we do best as retailers, and less on the regulation and restrictions that were the hallmark of 2020.  It may take us some time to get there, but hopefully as vaccinations begin in coming weeks people will move around more freely and running your business will, in time, become less onerous.

We know from official data and industry feedback that many retailers ended 2020 very strongly.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics this week reported a 13.3 per cent increase in turnover for November, compared with 12 months earlier.  The strongest growth areas were in clothing and footwear (up by 26.7%), department store spending (21.1%), and household goods (12.7%).  This can partly be put down to the growth in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales events, which have broken all records again.  And it can partly be attributed to easing of restrictions in movements.  Victoria recorded the strongest growth – an increase of 22.4 per cent after its lockdown was lifted during the month.  But even states that were not recording a rebound from lockdown performed well, with Queensland (4.5%) and Tasmania (3.4%) the next best.

The year-on-year increase (compared with those long-distant days before COVID) shows us that Australian consumers remained confident and were spending on items for themselves and for their homes. This is partly due to the lockdown and inability to travel, but it’s also due to the well targeted stimulus packages delivered by the state and federal governments. These measures have clearly worked to keep the economy strong, and the ABS figures prove they have saved a lot of jobs.  Based on what many members are telling me, we expect this strong result to continue when the Christmas and Boxing day sales figures are released in coming weeks.

Of course, I know this doesn’t mean that all types of retail and all areas of the country are performing to the same level.  There are many members who are still struggling, and will continue to do so because of the nature or location of their businesses. For example, the shift to working from home is showing signs of being a permanent trend for many office employees.  This will present ongoing challenges for retailers working in CBDs with reduced populations.

Whatever 2021 holds for you, don’t forget that the NRA is here to help your business prosper and grow.  If you are thinking about employment, leasing, training or legal issues, we have dedicated personnel who can point you in the right direction for advice and even put together a tailored package to suit your individual needs.  We’re only ever a phone call or email away.  Good luck for the year ahead.