Retail trade

Retail turnover rebounded in May by 16.3 per cent following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, according to the preliminary retail trade report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

However, NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said that a sizeable rise in sales was guaranteed to happen as shops began to reopen and that the sector is still struggling.

“It’s certainly good news to see retail sales rebound strongly in May and hopefully it’s a sign that we are recovering from the economic sledgehammer of COVID-19,” Ms Lamb said.

“However, we do need to remember the broader context. These figures were recorded following the worst month on record in April 2020 and following the easing of business restrictions, so an uptick was to be expected.

“The fact is many retailers are still struggling to cope following the economic impact of COVID-19 and Australia is entering its first recession since 1991. Retail is still far from out of the woods, but hopefully the ABS results demonstrate that we are on the road to recovery.

“The JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs have also helped keep ticking things along, but these are only temporary measures which won’t maintain strong consumer confidence. The NRA will continue to urge the Government to be judicious in when and how they unwind these schemes to prevent businesses closing and jobs being lost.”

The ABS figures come as American Express released its Small Business Recovery research following the launch of its eighth annual Shop Small initiative. The research revealed that 52 per cent of Australian small business owners fear for their long-term survival if trade doesn’t pick up quickly enough.

The American Express research also showed that only 33 per cent of shoppers felt comfortable returning to bricks-and-mortar shops and more than one-fifth (22 per cent) will only return to physical stores when zero cases are recorded in their respective states. Another 15 per cent said they would only return to the shops when no cases exist nation-wide.

“The Small Business Recovery research commissioned by American Express reveals the current anxiety within the small business community. Many shoppers are still very wary about returning to bricks-and-mortar shops,” Ms Lamb said.

“We urge all Australians to get behind the Shop Small campaign and support their local small businesses.”

Further information on American Express’s Shop Small campaign can be found here.