Consumer sentiment has fallen since April but remains positive ahead of the staged re-opening of states

14 October 2021

Consumer sentiment decreased by 1.5% in October 2021. The index has fallen by 12% since the high point in April 2021 but remains positive overall with consumers looking towards the staged re-opening in New South Wales and Victoria. Traditional retail sales continued to decline in August 2021 with a 1.7% fall (the third monthly fall in a row). Online retail sales remain strong with an increase of 8.8% in August 2021, the highest increase since April 2020.

Consumer confidence
  • 1 month - (1.5%)

  • 3 months - (3.9%)

  • 12 months - (0.4%)

Source: Westpac – Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index

National consumer sentiment decreased by 1.5% to 104.6 in October 2021 according to the Westpac survey. The survey was undertaken as consumers look towards the staged re-openings in New South Wales and Victoria as COVID infections fall dramatically in New South Wales and vaccination rates increase across the country. The slight decline in consumer sentiment from 106.2 in September 2021 was driven by a steep fall in sentiment in the regional areas of New South Wales (10.6%) and Victoria (8.2%), where the anticipated easing of restrictions have raised concerns over lower vaccination rates and weaker health systems in the areas. Despite this, consumers remain overall optimistic nationally with similar consumer sentiment levels recorded between NSW (103.4), Victoria (105.4), Queensland (105.3) and Western Australia (105.4), notwithstanding the varying levels of restrictions between the states.

Retail sales
  • 1 month - (1.7%)

  • 3 months - (6.2%)

  • 12 months - (0.3%)

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

The most recent ABS retail sales data released for August 2021 showed a decline of 1.7%. This is the third monthly fall in a row and the lowest monthly sales figure since September 2020 (11 months). Sales were 0.7% lower than the corresponding month last year, although they remain at historically high levels being 6.3% higher than August 2019. Sales within the individual states continue to track their varying level of restrictions, with material decreases in New South Wales (3.5%) and Victoria (3.0%) and the Australian Capital Territory experiencing a sharp decline (19.9%) as their lockdowns continued through August. South Australia experienced strong growth (6.6%), with Western Australia (2.8%) also seeing an increase in sales.

Online retail sales
  • 1 month - 8.8%

  • 3 months - 23.7%

  • 12 months - 24.0%

Source: NAB Online Retail Sales Index

Online retail sales recorded an increase of 8.8% in August 2021, following a revised increase of 6.7% in July (previously 6.4%), its largest monthly increase since April 2020. The $4.1 billion in online sales recorded by the ABS is the largest monthly sales figure since the records began in February 2015. Online sales for the twelve months to August 2021 represented 13.9% of total retail sales during that period, which was 29.8% higher than the previous corresponding period.