There’s a bit of a reality check for Australian retailers in today’s retail numbers regarding how well they are doing tapping into the burgeoning online shopping market.
The bottom line message is, not well.
For the first time, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has released a time series of estimates of online retail turnover in Australia, and they show that domestic online shopping accounted for no more than 1.9 per cent of total retail sales through most of 2013.
More alarmingly, given strong international growth in online shopping, among Australian retailers online purchases as a proportion of overall sales barely budged over the period. If you are looking for strong growth, it’s not here.
This included both businesses set up purely as online traders, and those who operate an online shopping site as an adjunct to bricks and mortar outlets.
Of course, the main online competitive threat for many retailers comes from offshore, and unfortunately these numbers shed no light on that.
But as a barometer for how well local retailers are coping in meeting this threat, the figures are not particularly encouraging, especially when anecdotal evidence and inferences from things like parcel volumes suggest online shopping overall is booming.
Unsurprisingly, given this is a first off attempt, these numbers – which cover the period from March to September last year – come with plenty of caveats.
Firstly, they are only in original terms – the ABS says it will look to publish seasonally adjusted and trend estimates “in the future”.
Secondly, there will inevitably be revisions and changes to methodology, questions about sampling variability and so on.
But as a wake up call for local retailers about their lack of penetration into the online shopping market, they should resound through the industry.