Australian spending was starting to look ‘incredibly positive’. Then came the second lockdown.

A resurgence in Australian shopping risks being undermined by the latest lockdown in Melbourne. (James D. Morgan, Getty Images)
  • There was a resurgence of spending throughout the month of June, according to data from Zip.
  • Retail shopping hit its highest point so far this year, while cafes and restaurants returned to near ‘normal’ levels.
  • However, while a positive indicator for the economy, it looks like it could now be entirely undermined by Melbourne’s second lockdown, according to Zip co-founder Peter Gray.
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Australia has been left scratching its head over where Victoria’s lockdown leaves its recovery.

New data from buy now, pay later platform Zip, which tracks the spending of some 1.8 million Australians, showed that the “economic picture look[ed] incredibly positive” over the last month.

“Throughout June, consumer spending continued to rise and was getting close to pre-COVID levels across many key segments,” Zip co-founder Peter Gray said. “Australians were reviving their love of dining out and were slowly returning to the pub.”

While cafes and restaurants are almost back to their pre-virus levels, pubs and bars continue to struggle, with their takings still well down on last year.

Retail spending hit its highest point this year, as shoppers flocked back in-store as well as instore, across the board. As restrictions eased, spending on cosmetics, event planning, dating websites and florists swelled as people suddenly had somewhere to go other than their living rooms.

Reopening gyms and fitness centres saw a resurgence throughout the month, with spending now sitting just 20% down on June last year.

Meanwhile, the government’ HomeBuilder scheme put a rocket under the construction industry, with spending up 54%. Carpenters, in particular, are doing a roaring trade, as their takings nearly double on normal levels.

The cycling trend that took off during the pandemic shows no sign of slowing either, as bike shops continued to ride the wave into June. Perhaps as a trade-off, and as commuters stick to cars, spending on public transport and taxis remain around 45% down.

People were evidently keen to take advantage of the for-now rescued snow season as they shelled out for skiing and snowboarding.

With international travel likely off the cards until 2021, the local ski slopes might just be one of the few beneficiaries of a travel ban that is clearly being felt. Spending with travel agents and on travel insurance remaining down over 85%.

However, while June provided some hope that life, or at least spending, was getting back to normal, the month’s end threw cold water on that idea.

“The recovery looks set to be tarnished as the nation’s second-most populous city and surrounds enters full lockdown measures for the entirety of July and into August,” Gray said.

“Questions remain as to whether [businesses] have created a strong enough buffer during the month to help get through a potential second-wave of nationwide lockdowns throughout July.”

Melbourne business owners have described the move as “another kick in the guts”, and are now worried how they’ll get through it.

As new outbreaks are discovered in New South Wales, there’s a real concern the economic recovery could be put on hold again.