May 25, 2023

NAB Online Retail Sales Index: April 2023

NAB Online Retail Sales Index was flat in month-on-month in April, after a mild contraction in March.

  • On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, growth was flat in April (0.0%) after a slightly less negative March result (-0.1%, was -0.2%).
  • In year-on-year terms, the contraction in growth eased again (-1.0% y/y). 
  • The flat result in growth was the net of a strong rebound in larger share category, grocery and liquor, along with media, and personal and recreational being offset by a drop in the other categories, particularly fashion, homewares and appliances, and department stores. In year-on-year terms, media, personal and recreational, and games and toys recorded growth. The contraction in largest sales category, homewares and appliances, continued for an eleventh month, albeit easing.
  • By state, growth was mixed this month, with the largest sales state, NSW, rebounding, along with ACT, and an acceleration in growth for WA. Other large sales states, VIC and QLD, recorded a contraction, along with SA (marginally), TAS, and NT. In year-on-year terms, the contraction in VIC and NSW eased, although SA and TAS weakened.
  • Metro areas generally fared better in the month, with WA leading. In year-on-year terms, the contraction in metro areas improved to a rate slightly better than the headline. Regional areas worsened, with a large drop for SA and TAS.
  • An acceleration in growth was recorded for international retailers in monthly terms, but this was offset by a mild contraction in domestic retailers. This was also the case for growth in year-on-year terms, with the contraction in growth for domestic retailers continuing to reflect base effects of elevated growth the year prior, which is now subsiding, while international continues to recover.
  • NAB estimates that in the 12 months to April, Australians spent $53.2 billion on online retail, a level that is around 12.7% of the total retail trade estimate (March 2023, Series 8501, Australian Bureau of Statistics), and a contraction (-4.6%) relative to the 12 months to April 2022.

NAB Chief Economist, Alan Oster commented:

NAB Online Retail Sales Index was flat in month-on-month in April, after a mild contraction in March. Both online and overall retail trade appear to have moderated in recent months. Of the categories, takeaway food was flat in month-on-month terms and contracted in year-on-year terms. For the latter metric, this was the first time since April 2019. However, there was relatively strong growth in monthly terms for the grocery and liquor category. While it could be speculated that there is some level of substitution occurring here between the two broad categories, as people opt for home cooking, there were also high profile food delivery services which exited the market during this report period. It is worth noting that our broader spend measure also indicates recent weakness in hospitality, with goods retail flat.

Also noticeable this month was the continued strength in the media category. This category consists of books, magazines and periodicals, news media subscriptions, as well as streaming music and visual content. While we observed similar spending growth behaviour at the height of the pandemic, the drivers are different. This time, the more recent entrants into the streaming service market appear to be driving some of this growth, whereas, during the height of the pandemic, it was more closely correlated with movement restriction, i.e. lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Get all the insights in the NAB Online Retail Sales Index (April 2023)

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