The result came as a surprise, well below market expectations of a 0.6% increase.

ABS Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys Ben James said restrictions in Victoria and parts of Western Australia drove the February fall. 

"Victoria fell 4%, and Western Australia fell 6%, as trade was restricted for five days in each state," he said. 

"The falls were partially offset by rises in New South Wales and Queensland. Both these states had seen trade impacted by COVID-19 in January, and in February saw rises in industries such as clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing and department stores."

Food retailing led the falls, dropping in every state and territory. 

"While through-the-year sales remain 6.5% above the levels of February 2020, they have eased from the levels seen in the middle of 2020," Mr James said. 

eCommerce booms as Bunnings weekend warriors turn to online shopping

While growth in the retail sector fell throughout February, eCommerce sales boomed.

Data from eCommerce fulfillment provider eStore Logistics shows online retail sales increased by a whopping 54% year-on-year (YoY) in February.

That growth was even stronger in Victoria (72%) and Western Australia (78%), the two states recently impacted by COVID restrictions. 

There seems to be no sign of a slowdown in online shopping for home renovation products by Bunnings weekend warriors.

Online orders for home and renovation products are being sold in record volumes, with 145% YoY growth.

According to the data, this category has seen at least 100% YoY growth recorded every month, and eStore Logistics Managing Director Leigh Williams said the growth in online shopping is here to stay.

"The pandemic has accelerated digital literacy and in turn, encouraged more people to shop online frequently," Mr Williams said.

"This growth will continue as more consumers seek out convenience when it comes to making everyday purchases.

"We’ve noticed that as online retailers are improving their logistics and fulfilment capabilities, and products are getting out the door faster and more efficiently. This is creating a positive customer experience and as a result, encouraging people to shop online repeatedly.”

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