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Online retail sales rebound in March

Online retail sales grew 1.7 per cent in March on a month-by-month basis, according to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index, following one of the worst growth rates in the series’ history in February.

According to NAB chief economist Alan Oster, it is too early to tell how the general weakness of the retail industry is affecting online retail, though March recorded higher transaction volume and average spend compared to the prior month.

“In the month, only two categories recorded negative growth – takeaway food and media,” Oster said.

“The largest category by spend share, homewares and appliances, recorded growth slightly faster than the overall [at 2 per cent]. While department stores continue to record the strongest growth [at 8 per cent], this category has slowed from high double digits post the introduction on all goods in July 2018.”

From this data, the NAB estimates $28.76 billion was spent by Australians on online retail in the 12 months to March 2019 – roughly 9 per cent of the bricks-and-mortar sector, and around 18 per cent higher than the 12 months to March 2018.

Online sales grew 5 per cent on a year-on-year basis, though this is compared to “one of the strongest months recorded for online retail sales” in March 2018.

“By merchant location, domestic online retailers continue to outpace their offshore counterparts with international slowing in year-on-year terms since July 2018,” Oster said.

“This compares to the same period in 2018, when consumers were boosting international sales in advance of GST changes.”

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