The latest Retail Trade figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show Australian retail turnover fell 0.3 percent in January 2020, following a fall of 0.7 percent in December 2020.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services were among the sectors to experience falls, with turnover of -0.3 percent. The industry wasn’t the worst, however— there were also falls for household goods retailing (-1.1 per cent), department stores (-2.2 percent), clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-1.1 percent), and other retailing (-0.1 percent). These falls were partially offset by a rise in food retailing, including supermarkets and groceries (0.4 percent).

Although the overall figures declined, the trend estimate rose for takeaway food services by 0.5 percent. The trend estimate for cafes, restaurants and catering services fell by 0.2 percent. Seasonally adjusted, the trend estimate for cafes, restaurants and catering services fell by 1.2 percent, and rose for takeaway food services by 1.2 percent.

The seasonally adjusted estimate fell for cafes, restaurants and catering services (-1.2 percent), and rose for Takeaway food services (1.2 percent).

“Bushfires in January negatively impacted a range of retail businesses across a variety of industries,” said Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys. “Retailers reported a range of impacts that reduced customer numbers, including interruptions to trading hours and tourism.”

While the affect of bushfires was apparent in January’s figures, the impact of COVID-19 is yet to be reflected with the outbreak only declared as a international health emergency by the World Health Organisation on 30 January. According to the ABS, some individual retail businesses reported reduced numbers, however there was no impact on the aggregate level data included in January’s release. It’s expected the novel virus will impact retail trade estimates in the coming months.

Some hospitality businesses are among those reporting the virus has affected their trading, with Sydney Chinese restaurant Phoenix placed into voluntary administration in early March after plummeting sales.

Image: Petr Sevcovic

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