Australian retail turnover fell 4% in August, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures revealed, following a rise of 3.2% in July. Not surprisingly Victoria suffered the biggest fall, down 12.6% in seasonally adjusted terms.

“All industries fell in August, as trading restrictions in Victoria drove falls at a national level,” ABS director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys, Ben James said. There were fall across all states while in the ACT and the Northern Territory retail turnover rose 0.7% and 2% respectively.

And while online has experienced volatility since March, 2020, monthly levels are well above the past three months and above the levels of a year ago, rising 7%, with household goods and other retailing particularly strong in through-the-year terms, James said.

The August figures confirm the full impact of stage-four restrictions in Victoria, with national retail sales figures hampered by the state’s performance, according to the Australian Retailers Association.

“The slowdown in the national picture reflects the spill-over effect that Victoria has had on the rest of the country and we are also mindful that the effect of government stimulus on consumer spending is beginning to wane,” ARA CEO Paul Zahra said.

“We’ve certainly seen an uneven share of the gains across the country – the prospects of many retailers are dependent on where they operate or the type of goods they sell. Sales of household products and essential goods like food and beverages, underpins the strong overall sales while prolonged weak trading conditions continue to afflict discretionary retailers.

“Despite the return to a close to normal life across much of the country, the continued strength of household goods sales indicates Australians are still staying, playing and working at home- albeit sales in this category are beginning to level out,”  he said.

According to Zahra it was possible to have a robust, but Covid-safe shopping season in Melbourne and he supports an earlier end to the retail restrictions, to allow for a more progressive, smoother, and safer re-opening. “We believe an approach similar to the successful NSW example is a much more reasonable alternative, as current lockdowns are globally unprecedented and untenable,” he said.

The outlook for online remains strong compared to August 2019 up more than 81%. “Online now accounts for 11% of all retail sales and is a clear example of the shift in consumer behaviour and we expect online growth to become part of the post-Covid retail recovery,” Zahra said.