There has been a rise in retail sales, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The figures for May showed sales rising 0.4% per cent for the month and 7.7% compared to May 2020 with more than $31 billion spent in-store and online.

National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said while the figures were positive, the recent spate of lockdowns showed retail continues to face a volatile period.

“The May results are good for retail, together with a strong increase on the April results, when you consider the month is generally a quiet one for the sector, but we are likely to see less promising results in June and July,” she said.

“Retailers understand the need to keep the public safe but even short lockdowns can have a massive effect on the economy.”

According to Lamb retailers were pleased with the National Cabinet announcement on a strategy to transition out of the pandemic, including an end to lockdowns.

“While a vaccination threshold that would see lockdowns become a thing of the past is yet to be announced, we do hope the details will be released shortly. A silver lining in the recent round of lockdowns has been a sense of urgency amongst all Australians to get the jab,” she said.

Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra said the industry is yet to see the full impact of the state-imposed lockdowns seen recently across multiple jurisdictions.  “The year-on-year results for May were mixed across the major categories of retail,” he said. “The vast bulk of retail spending continues to be made in stores, with online sales representing 9.1% of total sales in May 2021 but sales through department stores declined 4.7%.”

Retail spending in Victoria fell 0.9% as the state entered its fourth lockdown with Queensland and Tasmania leading the monthly increases, up 1.6% and 1.5% respectively.

He said the next two months of data looks set to be a mixed bag across the states with businesses across NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory impacted by lockdowns and restrictions as new Covid cases emerged in the community.

Spending on household goods was down 5.5%, clothing, footwear and personal accessories went up 46.3% while cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services rose 62.6%.

Zahra also believes the vaccine rollout is critical to boosting consumer and business confidence and to getting Australia’s Covid recovery back on track.