The clothing, footwear and personal accessories retail sector rose 1.2% ($29.1 million) in April, new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show. 

The lift follows a 5.4% rise for the sector in March. 

By industry subgroup, clothing retailing rose 3.1% ($52.6 million) while footwear and accessories sales slipped 2.8% (-$23.5 million) in April. 

Meanwhile, department stores sales also fell in April, declining $121.8 million (6.7%) in the month. 

The ABS reports that overall retail turnover rose 1.1% in April in month-on-month terms. 

But when compared to April 2020 – when nationwide lockdown restrictions were in full effect – retail rose 25% year-on-year.

National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said that the positive figures come after JobKeeper ended, which is a good sign for the industry. 

"Retail sales boomed nationwide in April, with the Australian economy now bigger than it was before the bushfires and COVID double-whammy. 

"April was the first month after the expiration of JobKeeper and the Coronavirus Supplement, so the strong consumer spending levels are cause for optimism.

"Retail remains absolutely crucial to Australia charting a successful recovery between now and when the pandemic finally ends.

"If consumers are spending money at the shops, it’s a good indicator that the economy is ticking along nicely," she said. 

However, Lamb added that the current lockdown in Victoria demonstrates that challenges still remain. 

"The extended Victorian lockdown has thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.

"If similar restrictions are emulated in other states, then it would put a major handbrake on Australia’s COVID-recovery. 

"The last thing we want to do is hamper Australia’s strong revival from the country’s first recession in 30 years," she said. 

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