As I noted in my last post, Australia has largely lucked out as regards the coronavirus: of the world’s 4 million cases, Australia has contributed less than 7,000; and just 97 of the 275,000 deaths. Nevertheless, as you’re well aware, large sectors of the economy have taken a hit. Non-essential retail stores are only now beginning to reopen.
Below, courtesy of 9News, is a list of retailers that are open for your last-minute Mother’s Day shopping. (I’ve already completed mine, but I do need to head back out and get myself a men’s cashmere sweater.)
Kathmandu (and Ripcurl)
Premier Investments (Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Just Jeans)
Consumer activity has picked up over the past couple weeks as the public begins to emerge from its Covid-induced asceticism. The service sector has been pummeled, particularly restaurants, pubs and hotels. But the coronavirus has been a boon for some sectors. E-commerce, for example, has witnessed a 110 percent increase in consumer spending. And sales at bottle-o’s (an essential business if ever there was one) are up 25 percent.
The CBA’s data, according to the head of Australian economics at the bank, Gareth Aird, indicates that Australians are getting restless and looking for places to spend their money.
“Our latest data comes before any easing of restrictions, so it may be that households are feeling more confident to spend at businesses that have not had to shut their doors,” Aird told 9News. “It also looks like households have been more eager to get online, click the mouse and fill up the virtual shopping basket.”
Notably, per data published by the Bureau of Statistics, there was a record-breaking surge (8.5 percent) in overall retail sales last March, driven almost exclusively by food and alcohol purchases.
“This was the largest rise in retail sales in history, even more than the 8.1 percent surge in retail sales before the GST was introduced in July 2000, driven by panic buying of food and alcohol and a record increase in household goods items,” explained AMP Capital senior economist Diana Mousina.
Having said that, the forecast looks grim.
“It’s expected that slower growth in food spending over April will not be enough to offset the collapse in eating out, recreation and clothing retailing as a lot of these businesses were forced to close,” Mousina said, adding:
“Credit card spending data from the major banks shows that overall spending is still down around 20 percent from a year ago. We expect the April retail sales figures to show the largest fall on record but there should be some improvement in May as consumers are out and about more and as some retail stores are slowly opening up again.”
It will be a long time yet before we get back to business as usual, if we ever do.