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E-commerce sector returns to growth in May

Online retail sales were up again in May after a weak April, when sales fell 3.3 per cent month on month.

The upswing was felt across all eight online retail categories, with takeaway food, one of the smallest categories in real times, showing the strongest monthly gain of 9 per cent.

The largest category, homewares and appliances, grew in line with the index, with sales up 3.7 per cent month on month.

Across categories, sales were up 4.8 per cent year on year, though NAB notes that January to September 2018 was one of the strongest growth periods in the history of the index.

In year- on-year terms, sales were down in two categories: fashion and personal and recreational.

Online retail sales were up in all states and territories in May except Tasmania and ACT, which fell by 2.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively. Victoria and NSW led monthly growth, with online sales increasing 5.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively.

The index this month introduced a new analysis of spend by metropolitan and regional consumers. According to its findings, metro residents accounted for more than two thirds (68 per cent) of online spending in the past 12 months.

In May, spending grew faster in metro areas (4.1 per cent) than regional areas (3.2 per cent). Victorian regional areas recorded the highest online retail spend growth, at 6.9 per cent.

Overall, domestic online retailers outperformed international competitors in the month.

NAB estimates that Australians spent $29.23 billion on online retail in the 12 months to May, which equates to just over 9 per cent of the traditional bricks-and-mortar retail sector, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

This is about 15.5 per cent higher than the 12 months to May 2018.

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