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Panic buying lifts February retail trade

Steven Deare
Panic buying has helped retail turnover to a 0.4 per cent increase in February

Panic buying at supermarkets has helped Australian retail turnover to its first rise in three months.

Shoppers frantically buying toilet paper, rice, pasta and other goods due to coronavirus fears drove turnover in February up by 0.4 per cent to $27.7 billion, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted figures on Wednesday.

This was 1.7 per cent up on the same month last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

The supermarkets and food retailers enjoyed the biggest turnover increases.

However trade has not been as buoyant for others.

Clothing, shoes and personal accessories shops had weaker turnover.

Duty-free stores and shops reliant on overseas visitors also had tougher times, due to travel bans preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Most retailers are bracing for testing times after the federal government on Wednesday tightened restrictions on people gathering.

Most indoor gatherings of 100 people have been banned, after outdoor ones of 500 or more people were prohibited earlier in the week.

The bureau has published the figures earlier than usual to help people understand the community response to the virus.