A decline of 1.1% in retail turnover in February leaves no room for complacency, according to the National Retail Association (NRA).

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said the February fall over the preceding month demonstrated that the high consumer spending levels are starting to drop, and no one can be complacent about the economic period ahead.

“These preliminary retail figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics underlines that the sector, and the economy more broadly, are still in for a challenging period ahead,” Lamb said.

“Both JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement are due to expire in less than two weeks and this will likely see a further decline in discretionary spending.

“The hard lockdowns in Western Australia and Victoria also no doubt played a part in the February fall, but even brief economic shutdowns can have a substantial impact on sales,” she said.

According to Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, the looming end of JobKeeper has many businesses, particularly SMB retailers, on edge.

“While the scheme has been incredibly successful in keeping businesses afloat and stimulus in the economy, recovery hasn’t been felt evenly across all retail. Our CBDs and travel retailers are in deep pain, international tourists and students are still missing and office occupancy rates in Melbourne and Sydney remain low,” he said.

“While there is a lot to celebrate in our economic recovery, when it comes to SMB retail the real evaluation will be in the months ahead, as to whether Covid-affected businesses will be able to survive.”