8501.0.55.007 - Information Paper: Measurement of Online Retail Trade in Macroeconomic Statistics, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/08/2013  First Issue
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This information paper has sought to explain where online retail trade activity is currently included in ABS macroeconomic statistics and described enhancements to improve measurement and coverage of online retail trade activity in both retail trade statistics and the wider macroeconomic accounts.

ABS retail trade statistics include online retail sales by Australian resident businesses. However, sales by non-resident retailers overseas who sell directly to the Australian general public via an online store are not included, nor are they within the primary purpose or scope of the Retail Business Survey. However, the Retail Business Survey has been enhanced to produce estimates of domestic online retail sales. Preliminary results from the enhanced survey show that 1.8% of the May 2013 estimate of domestic Australian retail turnover was derived from online retail sales. Pure-play online retailers account for approximately 40% of this estimate. If the same proportion of online retail sales (1.8%) is applied to annual retail turnover for 2011-12, then the annual turnover of domestic online retailers would be $4,554m in 2011-12. These estimates only reflect the value of domestic online retail trade activity which is within the existing scope of the Retail Business Survey. Complete results from the enhanced Retail Business Survey are expected to be available from November 2013.

The ABS is also investigating data gaps in the wider macroeconomic accounts created by online retail trade activity. The largest gap is imports of goods below the Low Value Threshold (LVT). The ABS estimates that the value of goods imported under the LVT, which are not currently included in the macroeconomic accounts, was $6,226m for 2011-12. This estimate includes, but is not limited to, goods purchased from overseas online retailers. This estimate will be included in the Balance of Payments coverage adjustment for the first time in the August 2013 issue of International Merchandise Imports, Australia (cat. no. 5439.0).

Further enhancements to improve the measurement and coverage of online retail trade activity in ABS macroeconomics statistics is the subject of ongoing investigation by the ABS.


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, cat. no. 1292.0, February 2006, ABS, Canberra

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), Retail Trade, Australia, cat. no. 8501.0, June 2013, ABS, Canberra

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2011), OECD Guide to Measuring the Information Society. Available at http://www.oecd.org/internet/ieconomy/oecdguidetomeasuringtheinformationsociety2011.htm

Productivity Commission (2011), Economic Structure and Performance of the Australian Retail Industry, December 2011. Available at http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/retail-industry/report


For further information about this information paper and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Paul Slater on Sydney (02) 9268 4581.