29/03/2022 - 13:30

Rail issues, COVID, hit retailers

29/03/2022 - 13:30

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Retail sales took a battering in Western Australia in February, down 2.9 per cent.

Rail issues, COVID, hit retailers

Retail sales took a battering in Western Australia in February, down 2.9 per cent.

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics gives some guidance on how the growing Omicron outbreak and disruptions to supply impacted the state during the month.

About $3.6 billion moved through tills in February, seasonally adjusted.

Trade was still 10 per cent higher than the same month in 2021, however.

Supermarket customers had severe disruptions caused first by Omicron-induced supply shortages on the east coast, and then by flooding knocking out part of the transcontinental railroad.

Business News reported that supermarket shelves were likely to be understocked well into March.

Nationally, retail sales rose 1.8 per cent month on month.

Commsec senior economist Ryan Felsman said spending in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia had hit record levels.

“Of course, stronger growth in retail sales was expected in February after the peak in the Omicron wave, with governments easing restrictions and households more comfortable to head to the shops,” Mr Felsman said. 

“More ‘normal’ trading conditions, greater consumer mobility and a return to work after staff illnesses and holidays all benefited retailers.”

Spending on cafes, restaurants and takeaways were at an all time high nationally, he said.

Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said it was pleasing retail trade was on a strong overall trajectory despite supply chain issues.

“It’s encouraging to see department stores starting to see some growth after many months of decline, as well as the continued uplift in fashion and hospitality – two categories that have been deeply impacted by COVID,” he said.

“Whilst these numbers can give us cautious optimism about the year ahead, small businesses are facing their own unique set of challenges which cannot be ignored. 

“CBD and travel retailers continue to face significant pressures, and we are mindful of ongoing volatility in our economy.”

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