The NAB Online Retail Sales Index grew 3.6% in May on a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis. This follows a considerably weak April result (-3.3% mom, s.a).
In year-on-year terms, the NAB Online Retail Sales Index remains positive, up 4.8% (y/y, s.a.) in May. However, this result is compared to May 2018, and it is worth noting that the period January to September 2018 was one of the strongest growth periods in the NAB online retail sales index history.
After a weak April, sales for all eight online retail categories expanded in month-on-month growth terms in May. The largest sales category, homewares and appliances (+3.7% mom, s.a.), grew in line with the total index. One of the smaller sales categories, takeaway food, recorded the fastest growth in the month (9%). In year-on-year terms, fashion and personal and recreational goods were lower compared to May 2018. For more detail, see Charts 3, 5, 7 & 8 below.
In month-on-month terms, all states and territories except Tasmania (-2.2% mom, s.a.) and ACT (-0.8%) recorded growth. Of the large sales states, Victoria (5.3%) and NSW (3.6%) led monthly growth.
This month we have introduced metropolitan and regional resident spend categories to the published series. Australia wide, metropolitan residents accounted for about 68% of online spending in the past 12 months, with regional spending accounting for the remainder (~32%). In May, spend growth in metro areas was higher, at 4.1% (mom, s.a.), relative to regional (3.2%). Victorian regional areas (+6.9%) recorded the highest online retail spend growth. The abovementioned state contraction in online retail sales for Tasmania was associated with a contraction in regional area sales, which account for a larger share of online sales for that state. See Charts 15 and 16 for more detail.
At +4.1%, domestic online retailers performed better in month-on-month terms relative to international competitors (+1.5% mom, s.a.). In year-on-year terms, from our series, considerable weakness in international online sales remains. See charts 13 and 14, and table 3 for category growth and share.
We estimate that in the 12 months to May, Australians spent $29.23 billion on online retail, a level that is just over 9% of the traditional bricks and mortar retail sector (April 2019, Australian Bureau of Statistics), and about 15.5% higher than the 12 months to May 2018.