Lockdowns see record 4.4% fall in quarterly retail sales

4 November 2021

Australian retail sales volumes fell a record 4.4 per cent in the September quarter 2021, seasonally adjusted, according to the Retail Trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), following a 0.7 per cent rise in the June quarter.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Statistics said: “The Delta outbreak from late June led to protracted lockdowns in many mainland jurisdictions, with the restrictions causing many retailers to close their physical stores throughout the September quarter.

This resulted in the largest quarterly fall in national sales volumes ever recorded.


“Similar to previous lockdown periods, sales volumes fell in most of the discretionary spending industries with cafes restaurants and takeaway food services (-18.7 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-25.1 per cent), department stores (-19.5 per cent) and household goods retailing (-4.3 per cent) significantly down in volume terms.”

Food retailing volumes rose 5.3 per cent with consumers unable to eat out, increasing their grocery spending with large periods of time at home. Volumes for ‘other retailing’, the category that includes large online-only retailers, were up 0.9 per cent with an increase in online spending during the quarter.

New South Wales (-11.6 per cent) experienced the largest volume fall of all the states and territories, reflecting the lockdown restrictions in place in Greater Sydney and throughout most regions for the entire September quarter. Victoria (-4.5 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (-13.9 per cent) were the other state and territory to see volume falls.

Other states and territories that were less affected by lockdowns all saw increased sales volumes in the September quarter. Western Australia led the rises, up 4.1 per cent, followed by South Australia (1.7 per cent), Queensland (0.2 per cent), Tasmania (2.2 per cent) and the Northern Territory (0.2 per cent).

See below for more information on Category sales and Online vs Offline sales.

Category Sales

Total online retailing sales were $4,341.4m in September 2021, in seasonally adjusted terms. This was the highest level for the monthly online retail sales in the history of this series, exceeding last month’s record result. In seasonally adjusted terms, the 3.4% ($143m) rise in September has added to the double-digit growth seen over each of the last three months, where lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory boosted online activity.

In September 2021, Food online sales were $1,099.7m, and Non-Food online sales were $3,241.7m, in seasonally adjusted terms. Food sales rose $3m (0.3%) in September 2021, a small increase following last month’s record increase in dollar terms. Non-Food sales rose $139.9m (4.5%) in September 2021, a modest increase following the double-digit monthly growth seen from June 2021 through to August 2021.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this web site is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.