Australian retail saw an historic fall in turnover during April, falling 17.3 per cent on March’s figures, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Online sales, however, rose during the month – encompassing 10 per cent of the total headline $24.7 billion monthly turnover figure.
The increased share is unsurprising given how many physical stores were shuttered for the month. And according to industry firm UBS the drive toward online shopping will likely become more important in a post-COVID world.
Online penetration will rise to 17 per cent by FY24, compared to the ~11 per cent seen today, according to UBS. And as customers remain cautious about being ‘out and about’ they are likely to be more likely to avoid physical retail, said EY chief economist Jo Masters. While online sales were up, however, the headline figure was $5.3 billion below what was seen in March.
Paul Zahra, chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, said the figures were painful, but not unexpected, considering the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have caused in the retail sector.
“We are only beginning to enter into the retail reopening period in May as non-essential physical retail stores begin to reopen around the country,” Zahra said.
National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said the panic-buying flood of sales in March led to customers “placing a padlock on their wallets and purses” in April. Given restrictions are beginning to ease, however, Lamb expects April to be the worst period retailers will likely face for the foreseeable future, though stressed there is a long way to go before retail begins to recover.
“We know that governments at all levels have introduced measures to assist business, but these results underline the need for continued support to save hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Lamb said.