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Image submitted to <i>Jeweller</i> on 6 May, shows that shoppers have begun to return to retail precincts such as Adelaide's Rundle Mall (pictured), as lockdowns are eased across the country.
Image submitted to Jeweller on 6 May, shows that shoppers have begun to return to retail precincts such as Adelaide's Rundle Mall (pictured), as lockdowns are eased across the country.

New data shows Australians returning to retail

Analysis of foot traffic patterns and retail spending suggests Australians are slowly returning to stores as states and territories prepare to relax social-distancing restrictions – yet figures are still far below 2019 levels.

The City of Melbourne’s Pedestrian Counting System recorded significant increases, compared with its four-week average, on Bourke Street during the first week of May. At 3pm on Sunday 3 May, the hourly pedestrian count was 95 per cent higher than the average; at 3pm on Wednesday 6 May, the count was 56 per cent higher.

However, the number of pedestrians is still a fraction of those recorded in the same period last year; at 3pm on 5 May 2019, the Bourke Street sensor recorded 3,442 pedestrians. The positive trends come despite Victoria maintaining strict social-distancing restrictions.

Meanwhile, retail data firm Kepler Analytics measured activity at 1,150 stores across Australia and New Zealand from 27 April to 3 May. It found that foot traffic increased 35.4 per cent compared with the previous week, while sales increased 44 per cent.

Ken Abbott, Timesupply managing director
Ken Abbott, Timesupply managing director
"Pedestrian traffic is increasing every day in Rundle Mall; it’s becoming busy again as schools have re-opened, office workers are returning to their offices, and retail is re-opening"
Ken Abbott, Timesupply

The increases across both metrics were highest in Queensland and Western Australia, where restrictions have been significantly eased in recent days.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that residents could shop for non-essential items from 1 May, while Western Australia has allowed gathering limits to increase from two people to 10 and has allowed residents to leave home for recreational activities.

Modest positive results were also seen in NSW, Victoria, the Northern Territory, the ACT and South Australia.

Ken Abbott, managing director Timesupply – which distributes brands including Dansk, Coeur de Lion and Nomination – noted that activity was noticeably higher at the Rundle Mall shopping precinct in Adelaide as restrictions have eased.

“Pedestrian traffic is increasing every day in Rundle Mall; it’s becoming busy again as schools have re-opened, office workers are returning to their offices, and retail is re-opening.”

Explaining the trends, Tony De Fazio, client partner at Kepler Analytics, said, “We have seen a lot more of our retailers open back up over the past week – gifting, homewares, fashion, female apparel… Customers are coming in and they purchasing [items] due to pent-up demand and they are purchasing en masse.”

However, De Fazio added, “Whilst there was a lot more traffic, we are still in fact 87 per cent down on traffic from the same week last year.”

The largest decline was felt in Tasmania, where foot traffic was 95 per cent below the same period last year. Retail sales were also 60.5 per cent below the same period last year, though average transaction value and sales conversion figures were higher.

Cindy Pope, managing director The Jewellery Group – which operates Mazzucchelli’s and Zamel’s stores in Western Australia, South Australia, NSW, Victoria and the ACT – said stores had gradually begun reopening last week.

“We currently have 46 stores open as of 7 May, and 23 still not trading. We reopened Western Australia and South Australia first, on Tuesday 28 April, followed by NSW, Melbourne and the ACT on 6 and 7 May. Remaining stores will be soft opening, hopefully, in the coming weeks.”

Pope said there had not been a noticeable increase in foot traffic as many neighbouring stores remained closed, but that regular customers were enthusiastic to shop again.

"We currently have 46 stores open as of 7 May, and 23 still not trading. We reopened Western Australia and South Australia first"
Cindy Pope, The Jewellery Group

“[The reopening] has been received positively, with our loyal regular clients all excited about our return and celebrating some special moments – including Mother’s Day – again with us. I believe we are all craving bricks-and-mortar shopping – in particular in the jewellery industry, where service, design and quality are so important.”

Abbott said it was “too soon to answer” the question of whether demand was significantly higher at re-opened retailers, as most had only returned to trading in the past week. However, he noted that Timesupply orders had been increasing each day.

Offering a broader perspective, particularly for retailers in shopping centres, Daniel Agostinelli, CEO Accent Group – which operates a number of footwear retailers including HypeDC, The Athlete’s Foot and Platypus – told the Australian Financial Review, “Everyone is sick and tired of being cooped up at home and I guess people are wandering into the stores. We've got a lot of lookers but those that are transacting are certainly buying more than they would normally.

“But – I want to be clear – we're still at 50 per cent where we were last year, and we expect that to continue into October. We are hopeful that we will see more customers in the shopping centres as restrictions continue to be eased."

Meanwhile, credit and debit card spending data from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and ANZ indicates that consumer confidence may also be improving.

Spending during the second half of April – the period immediately prior to some restrictions easing – was significantly higher than in the first half of the month, when the pandemic appeared to reach its peak in Australia.

Figures were 10 per cent lower than the same period last year.

 

More reading:
Retail reality: recalibrating to a new normal
Shopping centre landlords to implement rent relief for retailers
Coping with coronavirus: comprehensive business survival guide

 











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