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Australian retail trade is strong, but retailers on edge as JobKeeper ends

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Australian retail trade remains strong, but uncertain times lay ahead as JobKeeper ends, according to the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

Robust retail performance continued in February, with preliminary figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing $30.2 billion was spent on retail trade. This reveals an 8.7% increase compared to the same time last year.

While the figures show that retail turnover fell 1.1% compared to the previous month, ABS said this was compounded by Covid restrictions in Victoria and Western Australia which resulted in a five-day shut down of non-essential retail in each state.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said retail sales have been incredibly strong overall in recent months, but the looming end of JobKeeper has many businesses, particularly SMB retailers on edge.

“JobKeeper ends in just over a week, and while the scheme has been incredibly successful in keeping businesses afloat and stimulus in the economy – the recovery hasn’t been felt evenly across all of retail,” Zahra said.

“Our CBDs and travel retailers are in deep pain, with international tourists and students still missing and office occupancy rates – in Melbourne and Sydney in particular – still very low,” he said.

He explained that that has had a devastating impact on city retailers, saying there are less people going to their favourite cafes, shopping during their lunch breaks or even going out for dinner and drinks after work.

“The wind up of JobKeeper will only add to the pain these businesses are currently feeling with many forced to let go of workers,” he said.

“Travel retailers, like duty free shops in our airports are in crisis and haven’t been thrown a lifeline. They’re now in the process of shedding thousands of jobs.”

Zahra continued that whilst we have a lot to celebrate in Australia’s economic recovery – for SMB retail in particular, the real evaluation will be in the months ahead as to whether Covid affected businesses will be able to survive.

Source: Australian Retailers Association


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