Australians in lockdown completely put their wallets away in April, crushing the retail sector.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics announced on Wednesday that national retail turnover plunged 17.9 per cent last month, smashing the old record of a 10.6 per cent downturn in July 2000 when the GST was introduced.
The massive downturn followed a March when sales rose by a record-high 8.5 per cent due to all the panic buying of toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
In the clothing, footwear, cafés, restaurants and takeaway eatery industries, sales in April were just half the level of the previous year.
"While March saw a mix of impacts related to COVID-19 across industries, these impacts were overwhelmingly negative in April, as regulations regarding social distancing measures limited the ability of businesses to trade as normal for the entire month," stated the ABS.
"Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services, clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, and department stores fell heavily in April and there were no offsetting rises in the other industries."
Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said a rebound is only just starting now in the second half of May.
"These figures, whilst painful to see, are no surprise given the anticipated, brutal impact of the pandemic on our retail sector with most stores closed during this reporting period," he said.
"We are encouraged by the obvious enthusiasm from Australians to return to physical stores… However, our retail recovery will be slow and will track alongside our economic recovery, which remains in unchartered territory globally for the short term at least."