Australian online retail sales just suddenly spiked -- and it wasn't because of Amazon

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

If this gauge on online shopping is anything to go by, Australia’s official retail sales report for November — out tomorrow — could deliver a welcome and unexpected surprise.

According to the National Australia Bank’s (NAB) Online Retail Sales Index, or NORSI for short, Australians splurged on online purchases ahead of Christmas.

The index jumped by a whopping 4.7% in November in seasonally adjusted terms, the largest monthly increase since December 2014. And that was before Amazon opened its online showroom to Australians in December.

Source: NAB

The mammoth increase left annual growth in sales at 14.4%, well above the 8.9% level reported in October.

Like the headline NORSI, the NAB said most individual sales categories accelerated sharply over the month in year-on-year terms.

“Most categories accelerated in November with daily deals and the much larger homeware and appliances category recording the most rapid growth over the past year,” said Brien McDonald, Senior Economist at the NAB.

Annual sales growth for food catering, games and toys, grocery and liquor, department stores, and fashion also grew at a faster pace than a month earlier.

Only spending in the media and personal/recreational categories decelerated during the month, and even then they still grew by 21.6% and 6% respectively.

A strong report card then, at least for online spend.

The key question now is whether the splurge on internet retail sales coincided with a further acceleration in spending in bricks-and-mortar retailers after they bounced modestly in October following a very weak period in the September quarter.

We’ll find out whether the buyers’ strike is over tomorrow with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) due to release Australia’s November retail sales report at 11.30am AEDT.

The median economist forecast is looking for an increase of 0.4%, with individual forecasts ranging from a gain of between 0.2% to 0.6%.

After what was seen in the NAB survey, the risks could lie to the upside.

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