NAB Online Retail Sales Index: April 2022

Month over month, our NAB Online Retail Sales Index contracted for a third consecutive month in April.

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  • Growth in the NAB Online Retail Sales Index contracted again in April (-1.3%), following a significantly revised contraction in March (-0.3%) on a seasonally adjusted monthly basis.
  • Year-on-year, the NAB Online Retail Sales Index continued to grow, accelerating in April (15.2% y/y).
  • By category, results have been mixed this month. Large grocery and liquor sales categories and department stores saw growth, as well as smaller media and takeaway sales categories. The largest sales category, housewares and appliances, contracted sharply, along with games and toys, fashion, and personal and recreational goods. Year-over-year, take-out, grocery and liquor, and department stores lead the way.
  • All states except SA, NT and ACT saw contraction in month-on-month growth in April, with WA and NSW faring slightly worse than the aggregate. After recent weakness, TAS was close to neutral this month, with VIC and QLD slightly better than the overall result.
  • The contraction in growth was slightly worse for metropolitan areas during the month. However, this overall result was influenced by a significant increase in SA regional sales in April, as well as weaker TAS metro sales. Year-on-year growth in metropolitan areas was slightly faster, with NSW, QLD and WA contributing strongly to the result.
  • Most of the contraction in growth was recorded by domestic retailers, with international registering slight growth. April growth for game and toy retailers, a key share category for international, outpaced the domestic market in monthly terms. However, over the year, national retailers gained share in this category.
  • The NAB estimates that in the 12 months to April, Australians spent $56.89 billion on online retail, a level that represents around 15.1% of the total retail estimate ( March 2022, Series 8501, Australian Bureau of Statistics) and about 19.6% higher than the 12 months to April 2021.

NAB Chief Economist Alan Oster commented:

Month over month, our NAB Online Retail Sales Index contracted for a third consecutive month in April. That said, a significant revision to the underlying data for March almost offset the contraction for that month. The April decline compares favorably to similar series published overseas, with the UK (BRC) measure, for example, indicating that UK online retail sales fell much more during the month and contracted year on year. Our year-over-year measurement has accelerated.

Our broader measure of retail, the cashless retail nab index, suggests continued relatively strong growth in April. However, there are factors that are likely to moderate near-term retail growth, particularly inflationary pressures and rising interest rates, as well as demand for hospitality-related experiences.

For online retail, what we saw in April, year-over-year, was continued spending growth. What we also noticed this month is that for some categories, the number of transactions has not kept pace, indicating an increase in average spend per transaction. This was particularly the case for housewares and appliances, where spending increased year-over-year, while transaction volume was lower than a year earlier. This resulted in a more than proportional increase in average spend per transaction. A similar trend was seen in the fashion category. This may indicate the possibility that price increases will stimulate sales growth.

This month, in the heatmap section, we take a look at the takeout category and how growth has evolved from the pre-pandemic period.

Get all the information from the NAB Online Retail Sales Index (April 2022)

Anne G. Cash