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Australian online retail sales fell last month

Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images

Australian online retail sales fell modestly in January, suggesting there may be downside risks before the release of the ABS’ official retail sales report tomorrow.

According to the NAB’s online retail sales index, sales fell by 0.2% in January after seasonal adjustments, partially reversing the strong 1.9% bounce recorded previously seen in December.

In trend terms, sales grew by 0.6%, again slightly below the 0.7% increase reported previously.

“This suggests that looking through the month to month volatility, sales are still growing,”said the NAB.

Despite the monthly slip, online sales still rose by 10.6% from a year earlier, more than double the pace in traditional bricks and mortar retailers.

The NAB estimates that over the year a total of $19.2 billion was spent online, equivalent to 6.6% of spending at traditional retailers.

Though a fraction of total sales, the chart below reveals that growth in online spending continues to outstrip total retail sales in percentage terms.

Here’s the NAB on trend in online sales by category over the past 12 months. Clearly operating conditions for “Daily Deals” websites remain tough.

In year on year terms, all retail categories sectors except Daily Deals (-8.2% yoy) had sales higher than last January, though most slowed relative to December. Annual growth was highest for food catering (+42.3% yoy). This category still represents a relatively small share of spend and is a relatively new addition to the index. Sales growth in the next fastest category, Media, accelerated slightly (23.9% yoy from 22.2% in December).

All other categories had slower growth rates: Electronic Games and Toys (27.1% yoy vs 31.8% in December), Personal and Recreational Goods (9.5% yoy vs 11.9% in December), Fashion (7.1% yoy vs 10.2% in December), Grocery and Liquor (5.1% yoy vs 9% in December) Homewares and Appliances (3.4% yoy vs 5.5% in December), and Department & Variety stores (3.1% yoy vs 4.4% in December).

The ABS will release its January retail sales report at 11.30am AEDT on Friday. Markets expect growth of 0.4% following an underwhelming flat result in December.

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