8501.0 - Retail Trade, Australia, Nov 2013  
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ONLINE RETAIL TRADE ESTIMATES


INTRODUCTION

On 19 August 2013, the ABS released an information paper regarding the measurement of online retail trade. This information paper explained 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 ABS retail trade statistics and the wider macroeconomic accounts.

This issue of Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0) includes a time series of estimates of Australian online retail turnover for the first time. These estimates are provided and explained within the commentary below. Further discussion on the scope of the Retail Business Survey and the enhanced measurement of online retail trade activity can be found in the information paper: Measurement of Online Retail Trade in Macroeconomic Statistics (cat. no. 8501.0.55.007).


SCOPE OF THE RETAIL BUSINESS SURVEY

The estimates of turnover in this publication are compiled from the monthly Retail Business Survey. The scope of this survey includes all employing businesses within Australia from selected retail trade and food services industries which predominately sell to households. The online retail sales of both store based and non-store based retailers, including pure-play online retailers, will be included in this scope and therefore contribute to estimates of Australian retail turnover in this publication.

However, online sales by non-employing businesses and non-resident retailers overseas which 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. The survey also excludes online retail sales from businesses with a non-retail industry classification, such as businesses which sell predominantly to other businesses (which are predominantly wholesalers) and businesses which produce goods for direct selling to consumers from the same premises (which are predominantly manufacturers).


ENHANCEMENT OF THE RETAIL BUSINESS SURVEY

In early 2013, the Retail Business Survey was enhanced by adding a new online retailing question to the survey. This new question enabled the ABS to measure the proportion of retail turnover reported by each business which was derived from online sales, where online sales are defined as sales of goods and/or services where the order is placed by the buyer via the Internet or any other computer network, regardless of whether payment is made online or not.

Preliminary results from the enhanced survey showed that 1.8% of the May 2013 estimate of domestic Australian retail turnover was derived from online retail sales. Pure-play online retailers accounted for approximately 40% of this estimate.


EXPERIMENTAL TIME SERIES

The following tables present an experimental time series of current price estimates of 'online retail turnover' in Australia (i.e. turnover from domestic online retail sales), from March to September 2013. Original estimates only are available, with a view to publish seasonally adjusted and trend estimates in the future.

The estimates are disaggregated between "pure-play" and "multi-channel" online retail trade activity. Pure-play online retail trade includes only the online sales of sole e-commerce retailers (i.e. retailers that trade with consumers solely via an online store and have no physical store). All other online sales are included in Multi-channel online retail trade, comprised of retailers which combine an online store with a physical store and/or other non-traditional means such as catalogues, mail-order and/or telephone-order.

1 ONLINE RETAIL TURNOVER, Australia, By Type of Activity

Pure-play Online Retail Trade
Multi-channel Online Retail Trade
Total Online Retail Trade
Month
$m
$m
$m

ORIGINAL

2013
March
123.7
235.2
358.9
April
129.2
253.4
382.5
May
154.0
240.1
394.1
June
147.8
257.0
404.7
July
136.0
259.2
395.3
August
133.6
265.4
399.0
September
145.3
258.2
403.5


2 ONLINE RETAIL TURNOVER, Australia, By Type of Activity - Percentage change from previous month

Pure-play Online Retail Trade
Multi-channel Online Retail Trade
Total Online Retail Trade
Month
%
%
%

ORIGINAL

2013
April
4.4
7.7
6.6
May
19.3
-5.2
3.0
June
-4.1
7.0
2.7
July
-7.9
0.9
-2.3
August
-1.8
2.4
0.9
September
8.8
-2.7
1.1


3 ONLINE RETAIL TURNOVER, Australia, By Type of Activity - Percentage of Total Australian Retail Turnover

Pure-play Online Retail Trade
Multi-channel Online Retail Trade
Total Online Retail Trade
Month
%
%
%

ORIGINAL

2013
March
0.6
1.1
1.7
April
0.6
1.2
1.9
May
0.7
1.1
1.8
June
0.7
1.2
1.9
July
0.6
1.2
1.9
August
0.6
1.2
1.8
September
0.7
1.2
1.9



In original current price terms, the proportion of total retail turnover which was derived from online retail sales has varied from 1.7% to 1.9% between March and September 2013.

The estimates of online retail turnover only reflect the value of domestic online retail trade activity which is within the existing scope of the Retail Business Survey. Non-employing businesses and non-resident businesses are outside the scope of the survey, as are businesses with a non-retail industry classification (e.g. wholesalers and/or manufacturers which are engaged in online retail trade as a secondary activity).


CONFIDENTIALITY AND INDUSTRY DISAGGREGATION

In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, all data published by the ABS is subject to confidentiality processes before release. For ABS business collections, this confidentiality process avoids the release of information that may allow for identification of any individual businesses.

After confidentiality processes are applied to the new online retail turnover estimates, it is not possible to release the estimates disaggregated by publication industry group or sub-group. Therefore, a higher-level aggregation of the publication industry groups is proposed for disaggregating estimates of online retail turnover in future issues. The proposed industry groups are:
  • Food retailing and food services
      • Food retailing
      • Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services
  • Non-food retailing
      • Household goods retailing
      • Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing
      • Department stores
      • Other retailing

User feedback and suggestions on the proposed industry disaggregation is sought below.


ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS AND UPCOMING CHANGES

Further enhancements to improve the coverage and presentation of estimates of online retail turnover are the subject of ongoing investigation by the ABS. These include (but are not limited to) potential enhancements to the methodology of the Retail Business Survey which would optimise the survey design for estimating both online and total retail turnover, rather than the current design which is optimised for estimating total retail turnover only.

Changes to the presentation of the estimates are planned for future issues of Retail Trade. Future issues are expected to include:
  • Estimates of the sampling variability associated with the new estimates of online retail turnover;
  • Spreadsheets including the new estimates, available from the Downloads tab of this publication on the ABS website; and
  • Discussion on the potential disaggregation of the new estimates by state and territory, and conceptual issues associated with disaggregating online retail turnover by location of business and/or consumer.


SUGGESTIONS AND FEEDBACK

As part of our ongoing investigations, we are currently seeking user feedback and suggestions about the presentation of the experimental time series in this publication and the upcoming changes planned for future issues. In particular, comment is sought on the usefulness of the proposed industry disaggregation.

If you have any feedback or suggestions please contact Amanda Biltoft by email at amanda.biltoft@abs.gov.au or by phone on Sydney (02) 9268 4642.