Online Retail Sales Surge

September 7th, 2020
Household spending habits have changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lockdowns and social distancing. While most businesses in Australia and New Zealand are struggling to pay the bills, online retail sales are booming as people migrate from the high street to the virtual shopfront. Online retail sales were up 62.6% for the year in Australia, with online sales also emerging as a big winner in the New Zealand economy.

According to the latest data from National Australia Bank, online retail sales were up 6.7% for the month, giving them a massive boost of 62.6% for the year. Over the month, spending on games and toys was up 15.2%, with fashion up 12.7% and takeaway food sales rising by 11.2%. Overall, Australian consumers are swapping dining for takeaway food, and seeking domestic entertainment options as they spend more time at home. Grocery and liquor sales were up 6% for the month, which parallels a drop in the hospitality sector.

According to NAB chief economist Alan Oster, the extended lockdown in Victoria is having a big influence on sales figures: “In year-on-year terms, online sales in Victoria are nearly double what they were in the same month in 2019. The state also led growth in each [retail] category in the month... The strong result for Victoria was, like the national result, driven by games and toys, and fashion.”

All states except the Northern Territory experienced growth in online sales thanks to demand from stimulus payments and early superannuation withdrawals. In the July period, online sales jumped 16% cent in Victoria, 3.5% in New South Wales, 2.6% in the Australian Capital Territory, and 2.5% in South Australia. The overall retail sector seems to be holding up better than expected, with all eight retail categories recording month-on-month growth in July.

According to separate data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, overall retail sales jumped 3.3% in July and 12.2% for the year. While this figure is limited compared to online retail sales, easing restrictions across much of the country has helped to create a healthy spending environment supported by government stimulus packages. The potential long-term effects of the pandemic paint a more depressing picture, however, with rising unemployment and low wages particularly unhealthy when combined with lower house prices and mortgage holidays. ;

New Zealanders also shifted their shopping habits during recent lockdown, with $1 in every $4 spent online according to data from NZ Post. Overall, COVID-19 has influenced a change in online spending habits based on location and age bracket. There was a massive 71% increase in online shopping in places like Taranaki, Northland, and Gisborne, with these areas traditionally slow to embrace online shopping. There was also a 62% increase in people over 60 years old shopping online, along with a jump of more than 170,000 adult New Zealanders shopping online for the first time during the first six months of 2020.