Online booming, but bricks and mortar still king - NAB

27 February 2012

National Australia Bank (NAB), in association with data analytics firm Quantium, today launched the inaugural NAB Online Retail Sales Index which provides a detailed analysis of trends in online spending by Australian consumers.

The index recorded 29 per cent growth in online spending in 2011, valuing online sales in Australia at $10.5 billion for the year. While growing strongly, the index found that online sales account for only 4.9 per cent of retail spending.

The index also found that despite perceptions, almost three-quarters of online sales were made with domestically-based retailers and the remaining 27 per cent with overseas-based online retailers. The growth rate for international sales though is higher, growing by 40 per cent in 2011 while domestic sales grew by 25 per cent.

NAB Head of Consumer Sectors, David Thorn, said the index provided all retailers with information and insight into consumer behaviours and trends online.

"Changing consumer preferences and spending habits are no doubt causing some structural changes in the retail sector. This index gives an insight into these changes and provides retail businesses with quality information to help them make future decisions.

"Importantly though the index shows that over 95 per cent of retail sales are still made in bricks and mortar stores so whilst online sales are growing strongly, they make up only a small part of total retail sales.

"Things to consider if retailers are making such a decision are the type of goods you sell, who buys your goods and where you are located," he said.

The index divides online retail goods into four categories. By far the largest in terms of items purchased online was ‘Auctions, Department Stores, Fashion, Cosmetics & Variety Stores' which accounted for almost 50 per cent of retail goods bought online in 2011.

Traditionally food has the largest share of physical retailing but online the category ‘Groceries, Liquor & Specialised Goods' is the smallest of the four in the index, accounting for just 13 per cent of online sales in 2011, reflecting the importance of fresh and perishable items within the category.

Alan Oster, NAB Chief Economist, said the Index provides the most comprehensive survey of its kind for online retail spending in Australia.

Demographically the Index finds the bulk of online spending is concentrated among people aged in their 40s, 30s and under 30 with each group accounting for around 23 per cent of total online sales. In per capita terms though, people in their 30s and 40s make the most purchases although those under 30 have shown the strongest growth in purchasing online in the last two years.

Geographically, NSW has the largest total share of online retail spending with 35% followed by Victoria and Queensland. Per capita though, the ACT and NT have the largest share. Western Australia has recorded the strongest growth in online spending over the last two years.

People in metropolitan areas made up 72 per cent of online sales in 2011 although the difference with regional residents is much smaller on a per capita basis. Growth in spending amongst regional areas has also outstripped that of metropolitan areas in the past year.

Based on two million non-cash transactions per day, scaled up to replicate the broad economy. The NAB Online Retail Sales Index tracks online retail spending across sectors, demographics, locations and the breakdown of goods bought from domestic and international online retailers. The index will be produced monthly but the inaugural index incorporates data back to January 2010.

Media contact

Elisha Vincent
M: +61 (0) 429 566676

About Quantium

Quantium is Australia's leading data analytics and marketing strategy firm. Quantium has worked with NAB for more than 4 years, assessing de-identified transaction data to derive insights, trends and shopping habits of different customer groups. The resulting analysis forms Market Blueprint and is used by NAB and other businesses to drive innovation and business performance through customer, distribution and marketing strategies.