The NAB Online Retail Sales Index recorded a large jump in online sales in March, up more than 20 per cent year-over-year. 

The data, released yesterday, show six of the eight categories the Index tracks recorded sales growth in month-on-month terms. 

In year-on-year terms, the growth in the NAB Online Retail Sales Index accelerated (+21.8 per cent) in March, and it continues to outpace the broader ABS retail sales. 

Online spending was 5.6 per cent higher in March than February 2020.

NAB estimates that in the 12 months to March, Australians spent $31.91 billion on online retail, around 10 per cent of the total retail trade estimate, and about 11.9 per cent higher than the 12 months to March 2019.

Although online retail still represents an estimated 9.7 per cent of all retail, this share has grown in the past couple of months and indicates that, while broad retail sales have slowed, those consumers still spending are doing so with an increased online focus,” Alan Oster, NAB Chief Economist said. 

“Grocery and liquor, which had been growing strongly prior to the pandemic, has continued a pace, along with categories that might be boosted by self-isolation, such as games and toys, and personal and recreational goods.” 

Department Stores, a category with both conventional brands and market place aggregators, recorded the highest growth in month-on-month terms in March.

Homewares and appliances sales also grew strongly, slightly outpacing the overall index. 

Both fashion and takeaway food sales contracted in March, however takeaway food sales are still almost double the size of a year prior. 

Source: NAB Online Sales Index. March 2020

“With respect to COVID-19, evidence from overseas online sales monitors suggest that the fall in fashion sales is widespread, with the Australian market performing better than some comparable online retail markets,” Oster said. 

The month also saw Australians shopping online with local retailers, with sales at international merchants collapsing.

This was particularly noticeable in their key sales category, fashion, while domestic merchant sales growth for this category was positive. Domestic merchants, which make up the vast bulk of sales grew strongly in the month,” Oster said. 

“In sales categories where international merchants have a sizeable presence, such as games and toys, they were outpaced by domestic merchants. It is likely with these results that concern over stock availability and delivery was elevated in March, and contributed to this spending behaviour.”

In month-on-month terms, all states and territories recorded online sales growth. ACT recorded the strongest growth rate in online retail sales in March, with NSW leading the major sales states. In year-on-year terms, all states except TAS and NT recorded double digit growth, with Victoria. leading the large states.

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