Online retail sales dip in December

Retailers saw a 9 per cent increase in online sales in December, compared to the same period in 2018, but sales were still down 1.4 per cent compared to the previous month, when shoppers surged online to buy during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November.

This is according to the latest NAB Online Retail Sales Index, which has estimated Australians spent $28.6 billion on online retail over the past 12 months.

NAB chief economist Alan Oster suggested that the sales dip in December had more to do with underlying weakness in the retail sector than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, since these sales have been part of the online retail environment for some time.

“Low wage growth, high personal debt levels and a weakening housing market – particularly in Sydney and Melbourne – have made consumers reluctant to spend on non-essentials,” he said.

Online sales are estimated to have equalled approximately 8.9 per cent of bricks-and-mortar retail sales, which totalled almost $320.1 billion in the year to November 2018, according to data from the ABS.

Month-on-month, department stores saw the most online growth at approximately 7 per cent, while both takeaway food and media saw roughly 1 per cent growth since November. The remaining five categories (games and toys, grocery and liquor, personal and recreational, homewares and appliances and fashion) saw negative growth over the period.

Annually, personal and recreational retail was the only category to experience a negative result, while department store sales led the way with almost 35 per cent sales growth .

Online retail sales in the Northern Territory fell 30 per cent over the year, while every other state was able to achieve growth – with Western Australia seeing the most growth at approximately 12 per cent.

However, compared to November, every state saw a decrease in sales in December.

“The Australian economy is still growing, although we revised down our GDP growth forecasts somewhat last month, as wealth effects of lower house prices and slower housing construction bear more on the outlook,” Oster said.

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