Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing was among the hardest hit retail sectors in June, new preliminary figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates.
All sectors except for food retailing fell in June, with cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services joining fashion among the hardest hit.
Australian retail turnover fell 1.8% in June, driven by COVID lockdowns and restrictions, ABS director of quarterly economy wide surveys Ben James said.
"June’s fall in turnover was due to the impact of coronavirus restrictions across multiple states.
"Victoria saw restrictions from the start of the month, which were gradually eased from the 11th of June.
"New South Wales, in particular Greater Sydney, saw stay-at-home orders issued towards the end of the month.
"Other states and territories saw interrupted trade due to mini-lockdowns, as well as reduced mobility between states with the tightening of border restrictions," he said.
By state, Victoria led the falls in June, declining 3.5%, with the fourth lockdown taking a bigger toll on retail in June than in May (-0.9%).
New South Wales and Queensland also declined, 2.0% and 1.5% respectively, due to stay-at-home restrictions and reduced interstate mobility.
However, when compared to June 2020, retail turnover rose 2.9% in June 2021.
National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said that while retailers have adapted to COVID, it remains difficult to navigate the uncertainty.
"The impact of COVID-19 restrictions is clear in the preliminary report.
"Lockdowns are always going to affect retail sales, and even the businesses who are still able to trade are limited with reduced foot traffic and takeaway options only.
"Retailers have been able to adapt to COVID to an extent, with online stores and distribution channels being one avenue that have helped them survive.
"However, one of the biggest challenges with COVID is the continued uncertainty and many retailers aren’t in a position to experiment with risk.
"Our governments need to closely monitor these losses and the effects it has on the community.
"Further assistance packages are needed," she said.