Retail sales are at a record high as consumers embrace eased restrictions, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Australian retail sales volumes rose 1.2 per cent in the March quarter 2022, following a 7.9 per cent increase in the December quarter 2021 and 4.3 per cent fall in the September quarter 2021.

Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Statistics, said the March increase continues to add strength to retail sales volumes, which are now at a record high, up 4.9 per cent through the year.

“Consumers continued to spend in January, despite the reintroduction of some COVID-19 safety measures, as case numbers peaked with the emergence of the Omicron variant. As case numbers then began to fall and stabilise in February, and restrictions eased, consumer spending returned to familiar patterns seen following previous COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Most discretionary spending industries experienced rises in volumes, despite price increases," James said.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services had the largest rise, up 8.3 per cent, adding further strength to last quarter’s result as businesses remained open in the middle of the Omicron outbreak. Other industries also benefited from easing restrictions including other retailing (2.3 per cent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (3.6 per cent) and department stores (4.3 per cent).

States most impacted by Delta lockdowns in the September quarter 2021, recorded increases in sales volumes this quarter with New South Wales (1.4 per cent) and Victoria (1.5 per cent) leading the way. Queensland saw an increase (1.1 per cent), with boosted sales from flood recovery spending in March. South Australia (1.7 per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory (4.2 per cent) also rose this quarter.

Three states and territories recorded a fall in sales volumes this quarter, with Western Australia experiencing the largest fall (-0.3 per cent), followed by Tasmania (-0.9 per cent), and the Northern Territory (-1.7 per cent).


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