Retail sales volumes rise 2.5% in December quarter

Media Release

Retail sales volumes rose 2.5 per cent in the December quarter 2020, seasonally adjusted, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Retail Trade figures. This follows the 6.5 per cent rise in the September quarter 2020.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys, said "The quarterly rise was driven by Victoria (12.8 per cent), as volumes recovered following COVID-19 restrictions from August to October. Without the Victorian rise, seasonally adjusted volumes would have fallen in the December quarter 2020." 

At a national level, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (18.1 per cent), and cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (10.4 per cent), led the rises in seasonally adjusted volume terms. Department stores (12.0 per cent), and other retailing (2.7 per cent) also rose. 

Food retailing (-2.6 per cent), and household goods retailing (-0.6 per cent), recorded quarter-on-quarter falls in seasonally adjusted volume terms. 

Monthly turnover fell 4.1 per cent

Australian retail turnover fell 4.1 per cent in December 2020, seasonally adjusted.

This updates the Preliminary result of -4.2 per cent, and follows a rise of 7.1 per cent in November.

Mr James said: "Victoria (-6.8 per cent) led falls at the state and territory level following stronger trade in November as COVID-19 restrictions eased. New South Wales (-4.9 per cent) also fell as the Northern Beaches cluster impacted spending in the lead-up to Christmas." 

Queensland (-1.8 per cent), Western Australia (-2.0 per cent), Tasmania (-4.6 per cent), South Australia (-0.7 per cent), and the Australian Capital Territory (-1.6 per cent) also fell.

Despite the falls, in annual terms retail turnover remains at elevated levels, 9.6 per cent above the levels of December 2019. 

Following the large rise in November, five of the six industries fell in December, led by household goods retailing (-8.3 per cent). Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-9.4 per cent), department stores (-12.5 per cent), food retailing (-1.7 per cent), and other retailing (-4.4 per cent) also fell in December. Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (3.2 per cent) was the only industry to rise in December.

Online sales made up 9.1 per cent of total retail sales in December 2020. Online contributed 6.6 per cent in December 2019.

The trend series has been suspended from February 2020 due to COVID-19 and associated changes that will impact the original and seasonally adjusted series.

More detailed industry analysis and further information on the statistical methodology is available in Retail Trade, Australia (cat no. 8501.0).

The next release will be the Preliminary result for the January month. Data will be released on 19 February 2020.

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