Online sales plateau in February: NAB

Online growth stayed relatively flat during February compared to a month prior, but remains on an upward trend annually, according to the latest NAB Online Retail Sales Index.

Compared to last year February’s online sales rose 40.7 per cent, though only 0.1 per cent on a month-on-month basis.

“We estimate that in the 12 months to February, Australians spent $46.9 billion on online retail,” NAB said, “a level that is around 13.2 per cent of the total retail trade estimate [of the ABS], and about 48.4 per cent higher than the 12 months to February 2020.”

However, this is likely the last month of strong annual comparisons, warned NAB chief economist Alan Oster, as the high growth period of 2020 is to hit the rear-view starting March.

“An element on caution and perspective is advised when interpreting the year-on-year results over the next few months,” Oster said.

“As expected, strong online retail sales growth was recorded in the states with the short ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns (Victoria and WA), [but] online sales growth in these states was netted by a contraction in some other states, particularly NSW and QLD.”

The result was also somewhat hampered by mixed category results, with only four of eight categories seeing sales growth – games and toys, department stores, fashion, and personal and recreational goods.

Homewares and appliances and grocery and liquor sales fell, however, which have been strong performers during the Covid-19 pandemic period, driven by the ‘nesting’ behaviour encouraged by lockdowns and adopted by many Australians.

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