Snap lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic in Melbourne and Perth drove a fall in retail turnover in February.
Australian Bureau of Statistics preliminary figures released on Friday showed turnover was up 8.7 per cent when compared to February 2020, but the monthly drop was a deeper than expected 1.1 per cent.
“Restrictions due to COVID-19 in Victoria, and parts of Western Australia, drove the February fall,” the bureau’s Ben James said.
Victoria fell four per cent and WA fell six per cent, as trade was restricted for five days in each state.
The falls were partially offset by rises in NSW and Queensland.
“Both these states had seen trade impacted by COVID-19 in January, and in February saw rises in industries such as clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing and department stores,” Mr James said
Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said the bank’s card tracker data suggested disruptions were milder and confined to the week of restrictions, with sales well supported either side.
“Mini-lockdown disruptions will drop out of the picture in March,” he said.
“With our latest card tracker data still showing robust momentum, that points to a better month for retail although gains increasingly look to be coming in non-retail segments of spending.”
CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said retail trade was now 21.7 per cent higher than the national lockdown low of $24.82 billion in April 2020.
“That said, sales volumes have eased from almost 39-year highs of $31.57 billion in November 2020 to $30.19 billion in February, due to localised virus flare ups and a normalising of consumer spending behaviour as mobility increases.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the economy was moving to the next stage of its transition out of the pandemic-driven downturn.
“The recovery is under way as we saw with yesterday’s numbers,” he said, pointing to the better-than-expected jobless rate of 5.8 per cent, down from 6.3 per cent.