ABS' director of quarterly economy wide surveys, Ben James, pointed to the "mixed results".
"There were mixed results across the industries and states and territories, with COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria impacting the May result," he said.
"Victoria fell 1.5% as the state entered its fourth lockdown on May 28 with trade restricted for physical stores."
Australian retail turnover was 7.4% higher in May 2021 compared to May 2020.
Queensland and Western Australia were the strongest performers, each up 1.5%, picking up the slack from Victoria (down 1.5%).
Australia-wide, it was a mixed bag, with food retailing up 1.5%, with household goods falling 1%.
The clothing sub-category was also down 1.5%, and the ABS puts the overall volatility down to COVID impacts.
In total, there was $41.1 million in retail turnover in May, the second highest on record, behind November 2020.
However, Indeed Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering said Victoria's lockdowns will continue to "weigh heavily" on retail trade into June.
"We expect retail activity to be volatile in the months to come. That partly reflects Victoria’s lengthy fourth lockdown but also the fact that retail spending remains at an unsustainably high level," he said.
"During the pandemic we effectively saw four-years' worth of retail growth within a single 12-month period.
"Some moderation should be expected, even as economic conditions overall improve. Obviously the removal of JobKeeper and the reduction in JobSeeker payments will have some impact on household spending.
"That will be offset to some extent by households utilising their savings, which have increased considerably during the pandemic."
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Ready, Set, Buy!
Learn everything you need to know about buying property – from choosing the right property and home loan, to the purchasing process, tips to save money and more!
With bonus Q&A sheet and Crossword!