Retail sales recovery continues with sales up 1.8% in February

29 March 2022

Australian retail turnover rose 1.8 per cent in February 2022, seasonally adjusted, according to the Retail Trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 

The February result follows a 1.6 per cent rise in January 2022*, a fall of 4.1 per cent in December 2021, and a rise of 7.1 per cent in November 2021.

Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Statistics, Ben James, said February’s result saw retail sales reach their second highest level on record after November 2021 and turnover continuing to regain lost momentum caused by the peak of the Omicron outbreak in January.

“Lower COVID-19 case numbers in February, alongside the further easing of restrictions over the month, saw consumer spending return to similar behaviour seen previously as states and territories come out of a COVID-19 wave,” Mr James said

“Most discretionary spending industries experienced strong rises once again as consumer cautiousness lessened, leading to an increase in mobility and improved business conditions. On the other hand, non-discretionary industries, such as Food retailing, saw their turnover contract this month.”

Cafes, restaurants and takeaways had the largest rise, up 9.7 per cent. This saw the series rise to a record level as businesses overcame staff shortages and closures from previous months to return to more normal trading conditions. Other industries also benefitted from a return to favourable trading conditions including clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (11.2 per cent), department stores (11.1 per cent) and household goods retailing (2.3 per cent).

Food retailing had the largest industry fall, down 2.6 per cent, unwinding most of the strength gained during the Omicron outbreak. The other industry to fall was other retailing, down 1.1 per cent.

With no lockdowns in place and restrictions easing, most states and territories saw a rise in retail sales this month, with New South Wales experiencing the largest rise, up 3.9 per cent, followed by Victoria (1.7 per cent) and Queensland (1.5 per cent).

Two states and territories fell this month, with the largest fall in Western Australia (down 2.9 per cent). This was largely due to floods in late January which cut off a critical rail supply chain from South Australia. The Northern Territory also had a fall, down 3.8 per cent.