May 2, 2023

NAB Online Retail Sales Index: March 2023

NAB Online Retail Sales Index month-on-month growth contracted in March, following the strong February result.

  • On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, growth contracted marginally in March (-0.2%) after upwardly revised growth in February (+1.5%, was +1.3%).
  • In year-on-year terms, while the contraction in growth continued (-2.4% y/y), it has eased. 
  • The monthly contraction in growth was driven by larger share categories, homewares and appliances, grocery and liquor, and department stores, slightly outweighing growth in the rest. In year-on-year terms, media, personal and recreational, takeaway food, and games and toys recorded growth. The contraction in largest sales category, homewares and appliances, continued for a tenth month.
  • Growth was mixed this month, with the largest sales states, VIC and NSW, contracting along with SA and ACT. Conversely QLD, WA, NT, and TAS recorded growth, with the latter rebounding after three weak months. In year-on-year terms, all except QLD, TAS and NT contracted, with NSW, SA, and ACT worse than the headline.
  • Regional areas generally fared better in the month, with WA and TAS leading, although growth in metro areas for the latter was even stronger. In year-on-year terms, the contraction in metro areas was worse   relative to regional areas which was closer to flat. This was the case in all states except VIC, WA, and TAS.
  • The overall contraction in monthly growth was clearly influenced by domestic retailers, with international continuing to record growth. 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, while international continues to recover.
  • NAB estimates that in the 12 months to March, Australians spent $52.7 billion on online retail, a level that is around 12.7% of the total retail trade estimate (February 2023, Series 8501, Australian Bureau of Statistics), and a contraction (-4.4%) relative to the 12 months to March 2022.

NAB Chief Economist, Alan Oster commented:

NAB Online Retail Sales Index month-on-month growth contracted in March, following the strong February result. Online was much stronger than broader retail in February, and while weakening, it would appear that it outperformed broader retail again this month, given our total retail indicator suggests -0.8% (mom, s.a.). In year-on-year terms, weakness persists, although this seems to be moderating as the base effects of the prior two years subside.

By category this month, personal and recreational services continued its revival in growth, albeit at a much slower pace than the month prior. The largest sales category, homewares and appliances, reversed last month’s gains, particularly in the two states which had been strongest for the category, VIC and NSW.

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