Australian Retail Sales: February 2022 retail sales - Avant le déluge

About the author:

Alexander Mees
Author name:
By Alexander Mees
Job title:
Co-Head of Research and Senior Analyst
Date posted:
31 March 2022, 8:00 AM
Sectors Covered:
Gaming and Retail

  • A recovery in discretionary expenditure drove a 1.8% month-on-month increase in Australian retail sales in February 2022, according to preliminary data from the ABS. February sales were the second highest monthly sales ever and were up 9.1% year-on-year. Retail sales were 19.0% higher than in February 2020, just before the emergence of COVID.
  • Clothing and Footwear and Department Stores were the two best performing categories on a month-on-month basis. Food sales declined month-on-month.
  • The outlook for March 2022 retail sales looks weak, however, given the likely impact of the floods in eastern Australia and the effect of rising living costs on consumer sentiment.

ABS preliminary retail sales up 1.8% month-on-month in February 2022

The preliminary retail sales data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggested the Australian consumer was in good spirits in February. Overall retail sales were 9.1% higher than in February 2021 and 19.0% higher than in February 2020, before the arrival of the pandemic.

February 2022 retail sales were 1.8% above January 2022 as shoppers returned after a period of Omicron-related disruption.

Overall retail sales of $33.1bn were the second highest on record, after the $33.3bn recorded in November 2021. NSW was the best performing State, with month-on-month sales up 3.9%, followed closely by South Australia, up 3.1%.

Western Australia (down 2.9%) and the Northern Territory (down 3.8%) were the only States and Territories in decline. Victoria was up 1.7% and Queensland was up 1.5%.

Clothing, footwear and department stores performed best

With socialising back on the agenda, the best growth in February 2022 was in the Clothing and Footwear and Department Store categories.

Clothing and Footwear sales were up 11.2% month-on-month and up 17.8% year-on-year. Department Store sales were up 11.1% month-on-month and up 5.0% year-on-year.

Food retail sales declined month-on-month (but we ate out more)

Food Retail sales declined by 2.6% month-on-month. Eating out, however, moved in the other direction, with Australians spending 9.7% more than in January and 15.9% more than in February 2021.

Floods and rising living costs are likely to dampen retail sales in March

When the data is released in a month’s time, the retail sales data for March 2022 are likely to make for less appealing reading. The floods in eastern Australia and rising living costs, notably that of fuel and food, are likely to have had an impact on consumer sentiment and spending.

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the average retail petrol price was 206.7c last week, up 14% in a month, although tonight’s budget will include a temporary cut in the government’s fuel excise duty to ease the pain.

Figure 1: Australian retail sales, seasonally-adjusted, preliminary (A$m)

Growth stocks have had a choppy ride since the onset of the pandemicSource: Australian Bureau of Statistics

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