April 29, 2024

NAB Online Retail Sales Index: March 2024

Online retail sales growth slowed to almost flat in March

  • On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, growth slowed considerably but remained positive in March (0.3%), following a slightly revised February (1.1%, was 1.0%).
  • Growth accelerated slightly in year-on-year terms (15.1% y/y), partly boosted by base effects of key categories.
  • Mixed results by category this month with growth for fashion, games and toys, and department stores largely offset by the drop in homewares and appliance sales, which partially reversed February gains. The broad based strong growth for department stores observed over the past couple of months has moderated, with a drop in NSW and some smaller sales states. Conversely, NSW went against the broader trend, along with TAS, recording growth for the largest sales category, homewares and appliances. Department stores continue to lead year-on-year growth.
  • Mixed results also for state growth this month, with the two largest sales states, NSW and VIC, along with TAS, offsetting a contraction in the other states, particularly QLD and SA. While the two largest states recorded differing results for the two largest categories, they both recorded growth for third largest sales category, grocery and liquor, albeit not quite enough to lift the national.
  • Particularly strong growth for regional NSW this month, which boosted the national result. In year-on-year terms, while metro still leads, the trend suggests it is slowing, while regional online sales growth is improving.
  • Domestic retailers recorded slowing growth, but remained positive in the month. International retailers recorded a consecutive monthly contraction, albeit slightly better than the month prior. In year-on-year terms, the gap between domestic and international widened with domestic again outpacing international. Per previous notes, some context is required here re base effects.
  • NAB estimates that in the 12 months to March, Australians spent $56.5 billion on online retail, a level that is around 13.3% of the total retail trade estimate (February 2024, Series 8501, Australian Bureau of Statistics), with growth continuing (6.7%), and accelerating since the latter part of 2023.

NAB Chief Economist, Alan Oster commented:

In month on month, seasonally adjusted terms, online retail sales growth slowed to almost flat in March. This is perhaps not unexpected, as our broader retail measure indicates a contraction in retail sales for the month. In growth terms, online is performing better, particularly for some categories like department stores. This category contracted heavily in our broader retail measure, but continued to grow online, albeit slowing. With pressure on the consumer over the near term, it is likely that the moderation in online spend will continue.

By category and state this month, results were quite mixed. Fashion, and games and toys recorded growth for most states. Fashion, a key sales category for international retailers, was a rare bright spot for that segment in the month, outpacing domestic for the category. Domestic retailers more broadly have outpaced international in nine of the past twelve months. Also worth noting over the past few months, is the resurgence in the strong contribution to online sales growth by the large sales states, NSW and VIC, as WA and QLD have begun to moderate.

Get all the insights in the NAB Online Retail Sales Index (March 2024)