NAB Report Online Sales 2020
Online sales by category, seasonally adjusted. Source – NAB Online Retail Sales Index, Dec 2020

The NAB Online Retail Sales Index contracted in December (-7.1%), from growth in November (1.3%), on a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis.

While the year was stellar for online sales – helped along by a global pandemic that forced shoppers indoors – its growth tapered out as the 2020 year came to an end.

Takeaway food, and grocery and liquor, were the only categories to record growth in seasonally adjusted month-on-month terms. The biggest fall in month-on-month growth was recorded for the largest category, homewares and appliances, which contributed heavily to the headline result.

NAB estimate that in calendar year 2020, Australians spent $44 billion on online retail, a level that is around 12.6% of the total retail trade estimate (Preliminary Dec 2020, Series 8501, Australian Bureau of Statistics), and about 44.4% higher than the 12 months to December 2019.

Growth of Online Sales in various states
Source – NAB Online Retail Sales Index, Dec 2020

“When comparing this December to 2019, i.e. in year-on-year terms, the index continues to grow strongly,” said NAB Chief Economist, Alan Oster said.

“However, this rate of growth has slowed from the rapid growth between April and November (50% to 60%), to around the rate last recorded in March (~30%).

“October monthly online sales contracted relative to September, as lockdowns ended and sales growth returned to in-store. It’s also possible that some spending was postponed in anticipation of the November sales events.”

A topsy turvy year for online sales no doubt, with the slowdown on online sales growth explained for good reasons – easing of lockdown conditions.

One feels that bricks and mortar retail may struggle to return to its pre-Covid levels, but that will remain to be be seen. An initial surge for shopping in person may happen as people are relieved to be out and about again.

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