Australian retail sales fall in August, but Reuters sees relief

Reuters File Photo: Buyers hold up items in a clothing retailer in central Sydney, Australia, looking to sell to others. Reuters / Steven Sapphore / File photo

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian retail sales plunged for the third month in a row in August as half the population was stuck in a coronavirus lockdown, although the vaccine is reopening as it progresses worldwide.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday show that retail sales fell 1.7% to $ 29.3 billion ($ 21.27 billion) in August. It fell 2.7% in July, but beat the slide market forecast of 2.5%.

A $ 360 billion retail sector accounts for about 18% of GDP and further weakness is expected this month as Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra all shut down.

While the economy as a whole is sure to shrink this quarter, New South Wales is getting relief from easing sanctions in just a few weeks as people flock to jump.

After a painful slow start, about 86% of the adult population in NSW now got the first shot and 60% got the double dose. By the end of October, the state is expected to pass to world leader Portugal where 84% have been fully vaccinated.

For Australia as a whole, 77% have received their first dose and the fully vaccinated portion will soon surpass the United States.

“The cost will increase after a few months of lockdown and accumulated savings,” said CBA economist Stephen Woo.

“But we expect obstacles along the way because some consumers will be wary of initially catching the virus or coming into contact with the virus and being forced into isolation.”

Yet the epidemic has greatly accelerated online sales acceptance by consumers and retailers. Online food sales have doubled to pre-epidemic levels, and even fine dining restaurants have entered the game, selling take-away courses and sitting at home selling delicious food kits.

It has been life-saving for hard-pressed department stores where annual sales have increased by more than 50%.

NAB analysts estimate that Australians spent about $ 51 billion on online retail from August to August, an increase of 30% year-on-year and double the pre-epidemic view.

Bonanza, however, is expanding the supply chain and increasing costs. The Australia Post recently boasted its busiest day and warned customers to shop early for Christmas.

(1 = 1.3778 Australian dollars)

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