Australians shoppers spent a mammoth $21.65 billion online last year

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The emergence of meal delivery services such as Foodora, Menulog and UberEats produced a big jump in online sales at the end of 2016.

The latest online retail sales index by the National Australia Bank reveals spending lifted by 1% in December, in seasonally adjusted terms, pushing the rise on a year earlier to 10.4%.

The NAB estimates that total online retail in 2016 rose to $A21.65 billion, or around 7.1% of sales made at bricks and mortar retailers.

Alan Oster, chief economist at the NAB, said that sale of homewares and appliances, electronic games and toys, media, takeaway food and at daily deals sites all grew during the month, more than offsetting a contraction in sales of fashion, personal and recreational goods, department stores and grocery and liquor.

These helpful charts, supplied by the NAB, show the change in sales growth by category in November and over the past year.

Source: NAB

There’s a clear standout performer, whether measured over the month or year — online food sales.

“At 34% year-on-year, takeaway food had the fastest annual online sales growth in December, accelerating on the November result (29.6%),” says Oster. “This category represents a rapidly evolving way of ordering food, supported by recent advancements in methods such as mobile phone applications.”

In December alone food sales grew by an impressive 3.6%.

All other categories saw spending lift from a year earlier, although there was a noticeable drop in fashion sales during December, sliding by 5%. That may have been driven by some statistical payback due to spending being brought forward by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in November.

The weaker Australian dollar may have also played a part, as seen in this next chart from the NAB.

Source: NAB

According to Oster, domestic online sales grew by 1.8% in December, masking a drop of 4.4% in purchases from international sites, the steepest fall since August 2013.

From the high on November 8 last year the Australian dollar fell by over 7% against the US dollar by the end of December.

From a year-on-year perspective, domestic online sales continued to outpace international sales, growing by 10.8% and 8.6% respectively.

The NAB report comes just days before the release of Australia’s official retail sales report for December, and suggests that total retail sales may have rebounded slightly after growing just 0.2% in November.

The report will also contain quarterly retail sales volumes, accounting for a around of 30% of household consumption expenditure which is the largest component in Australian GDP.

The ABS will release its December report on Monday, February 6.

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