February 10, 2021

Cashless Retail Sales Index: January 2021

January’s cashless retail result represents respectable growth, following significant volatility late last year.


  • Our data mapping points to the ABS retail sales measure rising solidly in the new year – up 1.5% m/m in our estimation. The ABS measure has seen substantial volatility recently, rising 7.1% in November but falling 4.1% in December.
  • The volatility in late 2020 stemmed largely from the loosening of Victorian restrictions in late October-early November, combined with Christmas spending brought forward from the “traditional” pattern via Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales.
  • January’s result – along with a strong NAB Monthly Business Survey – suggests that the slowing in near year momentum we feared has perhaps not come to pass at this stage.

NAB Chief Economist, Alan Oster commented

January’s cashless retail result represents respectable growth (up 1.5% m/m on our forecast of the ABS measure), following significant volatility late last year.  It is fair to say that these results further underline our view that the Australian economy starts 2021 in an enviably strong position, particularly given global events. While there have been several small (so far) quarantine outbreaks this year, Australia’s control of coronavirus has allowed consumers to have the confidence to spend on retail.

In aggregate terms, the retail sector has seen higher spending since the pandemic began, although spending has been unevenly distributed and at times quite volatile. The composition of retail spending has also changed, with household goods, department stores and other retail strong performers, while cafes, restaurants and takeaways (which was the consistently strongest performer in the index) and clothing and footwear continue to struggle.

Western Australia is the fastest growing state, with cashless retail sales up over 23% year on year. while Queensland and South Australia share equal second place. (up just under 20%), followed by Victoria (18.1%) and New South Wales on 16.9%.

For more information, please see the NAB Cashless Retail Sales Index January 2021