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Online sales down ahead of holiday period

Online sales fell in the lead-up to the peak holiday period, falling 1.4 per cent on a month-by-month basis during October, according to the latest NAB Online Retail Sales Index.

The fall follows two exceptionally strong months, with August and September growing 5.7 and 1.8 per cent respectively.

Compared to October 2018, the result weakened 7.3 per cent.

According to NAB chief economist Alan Oster, while online sales tend to be more volatile than the broader retail market the past six months have more extreme than usual. 

“Looking through the month-to-month volatility, sales growth in year-on-year terms slowed, although it, and the 12-months-to-October growth, remained much faster than comparable traditional retail growth,” Oster said. 

October data shows mixed results, with half of the categories measured seeing contractions in month-on-month growth terms. 

Homewares and appliances saw the largest monthly contraction at 4.7 per cent, and was a key reason for the overall result.  Grocery and liquor grew 2 per cent over the month, while games and toys grew 1.8 per cent in the lead up to the holiday season. 

Takeaway food has been the most volatile sector measured, Oster said, likely due to high profile exists and consolidation in the industry. 

“Through his volatility, this category’s sales are up 80 per cent when compared to the monthly sales of October 2018, and is almost 50 per cent larger in the 12-months-to October 2019,” Oster said. 

International retailers continued to outpace domestic offerings, growing 1 per cent and contracting 1.6 per cent respectively, with fashion and games and toys driving international growth. 

“While key domestic categories of grocery and liquor, and personal and recreational continued to grow, it was insufficient to offset weakness in the sales categories of homewares and appliances, media, fashion, and department stores,” Oster said. 

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