This release provides a preliminary estimate for Australian retail turnover for March 2020. This estimate is compiled from the monthly Retail Business Survey and is based on preliminary data provided by businesses that make-up approximately 80% of total retail turnover and is therefore subject to revision. The final monthly estimate will be published in Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0) on 6 May 2020.
Preliminary March key figures
|February 2020 to March 2020
|Turnover at current prices
Preliminary March key points
- The seasonally adjusted estimate rose 8.2% ($2,284.0m) from February 2020 to March 2020. This result is the strongest seasonally adjusted month-on-month rise in the history of the series.
- In seasonally adjusted terms, Australian turnover rose 9.8% in March 2020 compared with March 2019.
- The rise in seasonally adjusted terms in March 2020 was driven by the Food retailing industry with Supermarkets and grocery stores, Liquor retailing, and Other specialised food retailing all recording increases in demand. The Food industry rose 23.5% ($2,710.4m) in March, with the Supermarket and grocery store subgroup rising 22.4% ($2,180.8m).
- Analysis of supermarket and grocery store scanner data shows that monthly retail turnover for perishable groceries and all other groceries increased in original terms by 21.6% and 35.6% respectively in March compared to February. Monthly turnover doubled for products such as toilet and tissue paper, flour, rice and pasta between February and March. While monthly turnover for canned food, medicinal products and cleaning goods increased by more than 50%. The rise in supermarket retail turnover reached a peak in mid-March before levelling off at the end of the month.
- Strength was also seen in other non-food sub-groups, for example, in the Electrical, Hardware and Other Retailing n.e.c sub-groups, where business reported an increase in sales of items related to the set-up of home offices for example.
- Weakness was seen in Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services, Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing and Department stores. These industries recorded strong falls in turnover as a number of factors, including regulations regarding social distancing measures, limited the ability of businesses to trade as normal.
Caution should be exercised in interpreting preliminary estimates as they may be significantly different to the final published estimates. This is due to several factors:
- Estimates are based on preliminary data provided by businesses that make-up approximately 80% of total retail turnover.
- Where respondents have not yet provided their data, it is estimated (or 'imputed') based on previous responses or averages from similar responding units. The level of imputation in preliminary estimates is significantly higher than for final estimates.
- The quality of imputation for preliminary releases may also be poorer than for final estimates, due to the higher level of non-response. Furthermore, historical imputes which are based on data from previous months, may not accurately reflect changes in the economy due to recent events.
- Changes to imputation methods have been made for the March monthly release to ensure non-respondents are more accurately reflected by the responding units in the current COVID-19 environment.
- Retail Trade uses the concurrent seasonal adjustment method, meaning that seasonal factors are re-estimated each time a new data point becomes available. If not appropriately accounted for, unusual real-world events, such as COVID-19, can distort estimates calculated using this method. From March 2020, seasonal factors will be calculated using data up to and including February 2020, then projected from March 2020 onwards. This approach, known as the forward factor method, ensures that the seasonal factors are not distorted by COVID-19 impacts.