Rising COVID-19 cases are unlikely to slow $21 billion in spending across the post-Boxing Day sales, retailers say

Rising COVID-19 cases are unlikely to slow $21 billion in spending across the post-Boxing Day sales, retailers say
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  • Rising case numbers from the Omicron variant combined with increased restrictions would be unlikely to dampen spending, the Australian Retail Association predicted.
  • Australian households continue to spend down the $230 billion in savings accumulated over this years’ lockdowns.
  • Restrictions have returned to most Australian states to combat the new variant.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australians are expected to spend $21 billion during this year’s Boxing Day sales, in spite of increased restrictions brought in to slow surging COVID-19 cases.  

Shoppers are expected to have spent $58.8 billion at retailers across the country in pre-Christmas sales, including $21 billion in post-Boxing Day sales, according to data released by the Australian Retail Association (ARA). 

Research conducted by the ARA in collaboration with Roy Morgan predicted rising case numbers from the Omicron variant along with increased restrictions across most of the country would be unlikely to dampen spending. 

Mask mandates are now in place across most of Australia, with Victoria joining NSW yesterday in mandating masks be worn in indoor settings.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the state was reintroducing its mask mandate on Thursday following a jump in COVID-19 case numbers. The state will also reinstate QR codes “in a limited way” and bring back density limits of one person per two square metres for hospitality venues from December 27 for one month. 

Paul Zahra, chief executive of the ARA, said the restrictions would not keep people away from shopping in-store. 

“We’re still seeing high demand in stores and expecting sales to be upbeat, with a record $21.1 billion forecast to be spent in the post-Christmas sales,” Zahra said.

ARA estimates Boxing Day sales’ spending will rise 2.1% on the previous year, to be up 12.6% on pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Pent-up demand for consumer spending is also set to continue in the post-Christmas sales, despite pressures from staff shortages and ongoing supply chain issues. 

“The Boxing Day sales are a key event on the retail calendar and with the states and territories staying committed to their reopening plans, we can look forward to a bumper trading period,” Zahra said.

The supply chain crunch is estimated to have impacted two in three businesses this year as shipping delays have driven up inflation and led to goods shortages across industries — including retail. 

A survey released by national employer association the Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) found 65% of chief executives found sourcing their usual inputs much more difficult this year than last year, and 29% said the disruption had been significant. 

It also found 52% of chief executives expected import disruption to continue into next year.

Zahra said the association was working with the government and retailers to resolve issues into 2022. 

“Challenges remain with staff shortages and ongoing supply chain issues, which may have an impact on the ability of retailers to expedite their financial recovery,” he said. 

Michele Levine, chief executive of Roy Morgan, said post-Christmas retail sales are expected to hit new record highs this year as Australians continued to spend savings amassed during lockdowns.

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) data shows Australian households amassed $230 billion in accumulated savings over the course of 2021. 

“Australians have saved up many dollars over the last two years that they’ve been prevented from spending due to lockdowns, border closures and other restrictions on travel,” Levine said.

Another CBA survey of 1,005 people found 69% were planning to buy something on Boxing Day.

The average spend planned was $557, which was 14% higher than last year.

Clothing is tipped to be the most popular purchase, with technology, home electricals and white goods next on the list.