22 Mar, 2024
Online fashion sales plunge nearly $1 billion in 2023

Australia’s online fashion sales have dropped by 8.7 per cent for the full year 2023 to $9.6 billion, down from $10.5 billion in 2022.

This is according to Australia Post’s 2024 Inside Australian Online Shopping Report.

The fashion category plunge was one key driver in an overall online spending drop of 1.2 per cent for 2023 to $63.6 billion, with the home and garden sector producing the second-largest percentage drop of 7.6 per cent, but the largest amount drop of $1.3 billion to $16 billion.

These declines were offset by a 9.1 per cent boost in variety stores and a 2.4 per cent lift in food and liquor purchases.

Cost-of-living pressures driving more cautious spending in 2023 has also highlighted a clear generational gap in spending habits. Millennials (or Gen Y) spent more than any other generation, at $22.1 billion, despite a 2 per cent drop in spending for the year. 

Gen X spent $17.47 billion online, a lift of 1 per cent from last year, while Baby Boomer spending lifted 7 per cent to $12.5 billion. 

Gen Z spent the least in 2023 at $10.64 billion, a double-digit drop of 11 per cent from the year before.

Despite the overall dip, the online shopping report found that 9.5 million households received a parcel in 2023, up by 1.4 per cent year-on-year (YoY), with over 1.5 million more Australians shopping online compared to 2019.

“Australians are shopping online more often, with 1 in 7 households shopping weekly,” Australia Post executive GM of parcel, post and e-commerce Gary Starr said. “While basket sizes were smaller this year, the increasing trend in repeat shopping highlights the reliance on eCommerce in everyday life. 

“This year, online sales events accelerated in popularity, almost becoming traditions for Aussie shoppers. The Black Friday sales event alone saw an 88% jump in online purchases, compared to 2019 and retailers were quick to capitalise.”

“The success of sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday ultimately contributed to Australia Post achieving its biggest eCommerce peak period ever, delivering nearly 100 million parcels in November and December.”

Across the country, West Australians embraced the online shopping trend with the strongest YoY growth in number of online purchases of the states/territories at 5.1 per cent. This was closely followed by the Northern Territory (4.6 per cent) and Queensland and Tasmania (4.3 per cent each). 

Rural Australia reported a larger increase in online shopping activity since 2019, up 18 per cent, compared to metropolitan areas which had lifted by 16 per cent.

Victoria and New South Wales both saw drops in online spending, down 1 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively.

According to the report, these decreases seem to match a trend where online shopping is going back to normal after an unprecedented surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

22 Mar, 2024
Amazon books losses on $6b Aussie sales as retail and cloud boom
Financial Review

Amazon’s Australian business raked in more than $6 billion in sales last year, with its fast-growing retail business and cloud computing division both growing more than 20 per cent year over year.

Amazon Web Services and Amazon Commercial Services – the company’s retail business – both generated more than $3 billion in revenue for the first time in 2023, accounts lodged with the corporate regulator show.

The online retail giant’s total sales for the 2023 calendar year climbed 18 per cent to $3.1 billion, while its net loss of $8.84 million for 2023 was down from a loss of $32.74 million in 2022.

It follows a strong year in 2022, when revenue rose 50 per cent year on year, surpassing $2.6 billion, following investments to double its distribution capacity last year to more than 330,000 square metres, enabling faster delivery.

Amazon’s online store accounted for the bulk of group revenues as net sales rose 21 per cent $1.57 billion, up from 1.29 billion, previously.

Amazon entered Australia in late 2017 to the fear of many local retailers that lagged in terms of online and digital investment. The company has recently expanded its one-day delivery to another five cities, Brisbane, Geelong, Gosford, Newcastle and Wollongong.

According to the monthly NAB Online Retail Sales Index, Australians spent $51.11 billion on online retail in the year to December, equal to around 13 per cent of total retail trade.

Prime memberships, which include services such as free delivery, video, music and books, increased the company’s subscription revenue to $346.2 million in 2023, up from $246.21 million in 2022.

The company’s advertising business grew 50 per cent to $153.4 million. Amazon Prime Video will start running ads in Australia this year.

Cloud growth

Amazon’s retail growth is on par with its cloud computing arm AWS, which landed in Sydney in 2011 to cash in on companies shifting their IT operations from on-premise data centres to the cloud.

AWS’s Australian revenue increased 22 per cent to $3.33 billion in 2023 from $2.7 billion last year and $1.1 billion in 2021. The division reported an after-tax loss in 2022 of $86.3 million, down from $91.1 million the year before.

To maintain its dominant market position, ahead of Microsoft and Google, AWS is investing $13.2 billion in Australian data centres by 2027, in a scheme it claims will create 11,000 jobs in construction, facility maintenance, engineering and telecommunications.

Microsoft responded by committing $5 billion to building Australian data centres to bolster its local cybersecurity, cloud computing and artificial intelligence capabilities.

Figures from Gartner show AWS retained the number-one position in the Australian infrastructure-as-a-service market in 2022 with 31.9 per cent market share, followed by Microsoft (29.8 per cent), Google (19.7 per cent), IBM (4.5 per cent) and Alibaba (3.1 per cent).

22 Mar, 2024
Quadrant swoops on $100m Canva stake in Blackbird sale
Financial Review

Venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures is poised to sell a chunk of its early Canva shares to Sydney-based private equity firm Quadrant in a deal speculated to be worth more than $100 million.

The fund-to-fund transaction, which is yet to close, is separate to an ongoing $US1.5 billion ($2.26 billion) secondary share sale already under way at the design software giant, and includes shares held in some of Blackbird’s earliest funds.

Blackbird Ventures declined to comment when contacted by AFR Weekend on Friday, but it is understood the talks are in advanced stages, and will involve some of its Canva stake moving to Quadrant’s strategic equity fund.

Quadrant launched the fund last year in a departure from its usual growth and buyout-led funds, where the firm takes control of a portfolio investment.

The strategic equity fund takes minority positions, writing cheques typically between $20 million and $60 million.

Despite the large price tag, the tranches represent a relatively small portion of Blackbird’s total Canva holdings, and highlight the prized status of Canva equity.

Canva is targeting a US initial public offering, expected next year. Its ongoing share sale is expected to be finalised later this month, and is known to include buyers such as Goldman Sachs and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.

The secondary share sale is facilitated by existing investors and Canva staff members, breeding new millionaires among early employees of the company.

The secondary share sale values Canva at $US26 billion, which some existing investors have argued is a bargain.

It is not known if the Quadrant stake has been acquired at the same valuation.

1 Mar, 2024
Why CFO departure is Canva’s greatest test yet
The Sydney Morning Herald

Australian start-up darling Canva is facing arguably the greatest challenge of its decade-long existence, as is the local technology sector that has allowed it to thrive.

One of Canva’s most senior leaders, chief financial officer Damien Singh, quietly departed the design software company this month amid an internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The current mood among many of its 4000 or so employees is one of angst and frustration, as what began as an internal company matter has exploded into public view.

Executive turnover ahead of an IPO is relatively common, as young start-ups look to bolster their leadership credentials. But messages posted to an anonymous professional community suggest there had been complaints of inappropriate behaviour made against Singh, who had been with Canva since 2016.

A source closed to Canva said Singh’s transition out of the company was already well underway before the online posts came to the attention of executives, and when notified of an investigation he resigned immediately.

“Damien has played an instrumental role in our journey and we appreciate the foundations he’s built to achieve the success we’ve had to date,” a spokesman said in a statement to reporters when news of Singh’s departure first broke. “As we now move into the next chapter, we mutually agreed that now is the right time to bring in a CFO with a long track record of growing public companies at global scale.”

In his own letter to staff, Singh mentioned nothing of the allegations, instead saying leading the finance team had been a “huge professional highlight and an honour.”

The events highlight not only the issues around the alleged behaviour but also transparency, which has been lacking, both to employees and to journalists covering the story.

The real facts of the matter - that Singh resigned earlier than planned after the allegations surfaced, and as the company began an internal investigation - took days to come out, and only after questions were asked by The Australian Financial Review and others who cannot be named for legal reasons.

This masthead is not suggesting that Singh is guilty, just that allegations have been made. Singh was contacted for comment but did not reply.

“Creating a safe environment for everyone is our number one priority,” a Canva spokesman said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behaviour and we’re fully committed to thoroughly investigating and actioning any instances of this.”

What happens next represents a critical moment for Canva and for the Australian technology sector at large.

The company is currently worth about the same as Telstra, with a valuation of around $39 billion. Its success or otherwise will help shape the fortunes of Australia’s technology sector, as Atlassian had before it. The company has indicated that it will likely list on the Nasdaq in the US, which would cement its position as a Sydney-born global technology heavyweight.

To date, Canva had managed to successfully straddle the line between scrappy and serious.

“We’ve always been scrappy,” co-founder Melanie Perkins told me last year. That’s been a large part of the company’s charm and what has allowed it to innovate and grow so quickly.

But the company will no doubt be keen to appoint a CFO with the experience - and the temperament - to steer its next steps as it looks to woo investors, particularly in the US.

A source close to Canva who is not authorised to speak publicly said the company is already casting the net widely for Singh’s successor, and may consider a CFO based in the US.

The matter also represents a pivotal moment for Australia’s start-up sector more broadly. This is a sector that for a long time now has had to grapple with the uncomfortable truth that despite all of its lustre - and growing economic heft - issues such as inappropriate behaviour are still rife.

For a sector that often demands better of the media, members of Australia’s start-up scene need to be far more transparent - whether they’re dealing with journalists or their own employees - if they’re to be taken as seriously as their economic importance demands. New initiatives like Grapevine - a platform for members of the sector to anonymously share their stories - are a welcome step.

Greater transparency will lead to accountability, and a safer and stronger start-up sector. Start-ups like Canva are known for being fun and exciting places to work, but this month’s events have revealed the ugly truth that they aren’t immune to some of the worst aspects of corporate culture. The sector’s diversity numbers are still appalling and won’t improve until the culture improves.

Many women have either left the technology start-up sector or avoided it altogether due to issues around inappropriate behaviour, and the sector is poorer for it.

For Canva, how its co-founders handle the current fallout, as well as who they select as Singh’s successor, will serve as a litmus test if the company is ready to be treated as the mature, grown-up tech company that it aspires to be.

1 Mar, 2024
AI verifies mortgages ‘within seconds’ in Perpetual, Lakeba and Microsoft partnership
The Australian Business Review

Sydney tech firm Lakeba is automating document verification across some of Australia’s biggest financial institutions, slashing processing times from about 12 minutes to within seconds, and will soon be deployed across multi-billion dollar transactions.

Lakeba’s DoxAI has developed and deployed its AI tools onto Microsoft’s Cloud to accelerate digitisation at ANZ, Macquarie Bank and now Perpetual.

Perpetual Corporate Trust chief executive Richard McCarthy said the 137-year-old firm was using AI to run quality checks on securitised loans and mortgages and planned to later extend its application to payments, which involves billions of dollars of transactions a day.

“There’s still a large paper based business and process in the banking and financial services industry of which we are an intermediary for and as a business, we’re always focused through what we call our ‘three E’s to C strategy’ – how do we make our business, our clients and the market more effective, more efficient, more economical, while improving and ensuring that we focus on the ever increasing risk of cybersecurity,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We have a technology which enables our clients to repeatable and scalable solutions that ensure our loan security documents are complete, accurate and ultimately enforceable. And we are really starting to create immense amounts of process improvement, accuracy and time benefit.”

Mr McCarthy said Perpetual planned to extend the technology’s use to payments in the second quarter. “That’s been a long time coming because … we’ve got seven legacy systems being replaced by a cloud SaaS (software as a service) solution, which processes hundreds of billions of dollars of payments – thousands of transactions a day. So it has to be 100 per cent accurate”.

Financial services have been one of the earliest and biggest adopters of AI. And while Australian Securities & Investments Commission chair Joe Longo said there was “plenty of scope for making the best use of our regulatory toolkit” to regulate AI, it did not mean more needed to be done to rein in the technology.

“Even as AI ‘leaps forward,’ at a rate never seen before, questions around transparency and explainability become paramount if we’re to protect consumers from harm – intended or not,” Mr Long said.

“It isn’t fanciful to imagine that credit providers using AI systems to identify ‘better’ credit risks could (potentially) unfairly discriminate against those vulnerable consumers. And with ‘opaque’ AI systems, the mechanisms by which that discrimination occurs could be difficult to detect. Even if the current laws are sufficient to punish bad action, their ability to prevent the harm might not be.”

But Mr McCarthy said Perpetual’s use of AI was strictly about verifying documentation, a process which typically takes a human around 12 minutes to do. The AI has slashed this process to about 48 seconds, Mr McCarthy said.

“Our process is really around process improvements rather than credit quality, of which the banks are basically providing that loan to an individual, determining that loan is fit for purpose and that loan can be serviced by them within their credit parameters.

“We’re one step down in terms of actually really trying to ensure once that loan is taken out, by the bank off or non bank financial institution, that it is 100 per cent accurate.

“What happens sometimes, you know, you have a land title registry, the certificate of title, the mortgage document, there’ll be a spelling error in one of those documents, and therefore the name is wrong, and really the entire loan contract needs to be accurate, verified and then enforceable. That’s where these improvements are coming from.”

Lakeba chief executive Giuseppe Porcelli also said AI’s use in document verification meant it wasn’t making decisions in which any bias could be an issue. Rather, he said, it was ensuring documentation was more correct, achieving about 97 per cent accuracy.

“I will use an Italian expression – it depends on how many drinks or how good the lifestyle of the human had the day before? Because you know, humans sometimes are subjective to something else in their life. The person can be distracted for any reason,” Mr Porcelli said.

“So the accuracy, in my words, can be really competitive when it comes to human versus the ability of a machine to discover issues in a digital or physical document.

“We firstly create products by making sure that we deeply understand what the challenges are, especially when it comes to workflows and process compliance.”

2 Feb, 2024
Microsoft cuts 1900 jobs from games division it bought for $105b
Financial Review

Seattle | Microsoft said it would eliminate 1900 roles in its video game division, including at Activision Blizzard, which it acquired for $US69 billion ($105 billion) three months ago.

The job cuts will be made at Activision Blizzard, the maker of hit games such as Call of Duty and Guitar Hero, as well as at Xbox, according to a staff memo from Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Gaming, that was obtained by The New York Times.


The cuts amount to a reduction of nearly 9 per cent of Microsoft’s 22,000-person video game division, but less than 1 per cent of the company’s roughly 220,000 employees overall.

“Looking ahead, we’ll continue to invest in areas that will grow our business and support our strategy of bringing more games to more players around the world,” Mr Spencer said in the memo.

This month, thousands of employees across the video game industry have been told they are facing layoffs, as the pandemic boom in playing continues to recede.

Riot Games, which makes League of Legends, said it would lay off about 11 per cent of its workforce. Twitch, a video streaming platform owned by Amazon that is used heavily by gamers, announced that it would cut 35 per cent of its staff. Discord, a social platform beloved by gamers, is cutting 18 per cent of its ranks. And Unity Software, which provides software for game developers, said it was cutting one-quarter of its staff, or roughly 1800 jobs. They all had layoffs last year as well.

‘Unprecedented’ turn

Piers Harding-Rolls, a gaming researcher at the analytics firm Ampere Analysis, said some trims at Activision Blizzard were expected after the acquisition, but the extent of the industry cuts was “unprecedented.”

“I’ve been really surprised by the scale and extent in terms of the number of companies that have laid people off in the new year,” he said. “It seems like a lot of companies waited for the end of the year and pulled the trigger in January.”

At Microsoft, gaming has become the company’s most important consumer business, surpassing $US15 billion in annual sales, largely under the Xbox brand. The company’s ambitions became clear two years ago, when it announced the blockbuster deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, whose valuation had fallen over concerns about its workplace culture, which the company denied.

The deal faced intense regulatory scrutiny around the world, and the company had to delay the closing date to October, from August.

In the meantime, as the world reopened after the pandemic retreated, consumers started going out again instead of staying in and playing. Microsoft’s gaming revenue fell $US764 million, or 5 per cent, in its last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Bobby Kotick, who led Activision Blizzard since 2008 and built it into a powerhouse, left the company at the end of last year. The president of Blizzard Entertainment, Mike Ybarra, announced on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that Thursday would be his last day at the company.

“Having already spent 20+ years at Microsoft and with the acquisition of Activision Blizzard behind us, it’s time for me to (once again) become Blizzard’s biggest fan from the outside,” Mr Ybarra wrote.

The layoffs were reported earlier by The Verge. Microsoft declined to comment.

The video game industry is “suffering through a winter right now”, said Joost van Dreunen, a New York University professor who studies the gaming business.

This year is expected to be slower for the industry than 2023, which had a series of blockbuster releases including The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and a remake of Resident Evil 4.

In the meantime, companies are shedding workers and cutting costs to stay competitive. “If everybody around you is cutting their overhead and you don’t, you’re going to invoke the wrath of your shareholders at some point,” Mr van Dreunen said.

7 Dec, 2023
Two Australian fintech deals close as acquisition season kicks off
WLTH’s co-founder and CEO Brodie Haupt has closed his first acquisition.

An expected wave of merger and acquisition activity in Australia’s technology scene is picking up momentum with the closure of two deals in the fintech sector, for a tax software firm and an online mortgage broker.

Queensland-based Mortgage Mart of Australia, a mortgage manager with a loan portfolio exceeding $1 billion, has been snapped up by fellow Queensland digital lender WLTH in a deal worth more than $10 million, while Melbourne accounting software app maker TaxLeopard has bought rival Airtax for $500,000. 

The Australian Financial Review called the start of a tech M&A wave earlier this month, due to a divide opening up between well-funded tech firms and those that have less prospect of raising affordable capital to continue growing in a higher interest rate environment. 

WLTH has cash on hand to make its first acquisition after closing a $14 million funding round led by Melbourne-based investment firm Rajomon and Kina Bank, an ASX-listed digital bank from Papua New Guinea.

After completing the deal WLTH will have a loan book exceeding $1.5 billion, with co-founder and chief executive Brodie Haupt saying it would keep the brands separate. 

Mr Haupt said one of Mortgage Mart’s founders, Wayne Armstrong, would stay in an operational role as its general manager, while his co-founder Doug Daniel would take a board seat. The exact terms of the acquisition were kept private, but it was worth more than $10 million, with a mixture of cash and equity.

“This is our first successful acquisition, following one previous unsuccessful deal – which, in hindsight, was a positive outcome. Based on those learnings, we were better able to make the right decisions that enabled us to close this deal,” Mr Haupt said.

“From the outset, our measure of value was that Mortgage Mart had built a solid loan book, loyal customer base and trustworthy brand.

“While market conditions did influence our negotiations to a degree, the intrinsic value of the company remained stable, and that was reflected in the final deal value.”

Mr Haupt said WLTH would be able to add new products and application processes to Mortgage Mart’s platform, meaning loan applications could be dealt with in less than 15 minutes.

He said WLTH had no immediate plans for further acquisitions, but was open to opportunities.

7 Nov, 2023
Skechers sets quarterly sales record as innovation drive pays off
By Celene Ignacio

Footwear brand Skechers saw record sales of US$2.02 billion in the third quarter of FY23, up 7.8 per cent year on year.

The company said sales grew in all its regions, including the Americas, which it attributed to the strength of its direct-to-consumer channel.

Net earnings surged 69.3 per cent to $145.4 million while gross margin rose to 52.9 per cent.

“Our record third-quarter sales were the result of our continued innovation and determination to deliver comfort, style and quality in every pair,” said Robert Greenberg, CEO.

During the quarter, Skechers launched a collaboration with Snoop Dogg and another with Harry Kane.

“Designing desirable footwear for fans of Snoop Dogg as well as our ambassador Martha Stewart demonstrates the diversity of style, offering and demographic of the Skechers brand and our customers,” said Greenberg.

“We believe our constant innovation to meet the needs of consumers from all walks of life—including professional athletes, and our impactful marketing will drive our success for years to come.”

3 Oct, 2023
Far from niche: Four out of five Australians are gamers
The Sydney Morning Herald

Australia’s average video game player is 35 years old, has been playing for 11 years and is equally likely to be male or female.

More than four in five Australians play video games, and tend to do so for more than an hour a day. And yet retrograde stereotypes and assumptions continue to pervade mainstream discussions of the medium and threaten to squander some of the opportunities it brings.

Research published in August, based on a survey of more than 1200 households, shows a wide and growing audience for games in Australia. Those who don’t game at all are by far in the minority. The proportion of the population that plays grew by 14 percentage points since 2021 to 81 per cent.

The research, commissioned by peak industry body the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association and conducted by Bond University, is the 10th of its kind since 2005. But IGEA chief executive Ron Curry said many people’s misconceptions about games, or even their failure to realise that they themselves play games, remained a problem for advocacy.

“It’s frustrating that year after year we produce this data, and yet we’re still trying to convince people that games are just not a niche product,” he said.

“Quite often we will sit down with policymakers or politicians who say they don’t play games, and we’ll just ask them, what’s on your phone? What do you do when you’re sitting on a plane? What is the first thing to do in the morning? You don’t have to be in a first-person shooter to be engaged with video games.”

And such thinking is not only a problem for funding, regulating and celebrating games. It has wider economic implications as well. While advertising is prominent on free-to-play smartphone-based games, advertisers have largely struggled to reach the gaming audience at large.

“You know, 21 per cent of game players are under the age of 18, so there’s a huge opportunity to advertise to the rest,” Curry said.

“But it needs to be nuanced, and it needs to fit in to the feel and the style of the game.”

The most conservative estimates of global video game revenue in 2022 put it at almost $300 billion, much more than the movie and music industries combined. IGEA figures have Australians specifically spending $4.21 billion; $2.65 billion related to console and PC games, $1.56 billion for mobile.

The most recent report also showed that 91 per cent of parents reported playing games with their children, 59 per cent of adults said they enjoyed socialising in games, one-third of players said they’d made a new friend inside a game, and only a quarter said they always play solo.

While the game-playing audience has grown across every demographic since 2021, there have been some exceptional leaps, for example in older Australians. The report shows that 74 per cent of 65 to 74-year-olds now play (up from 47 per cent), and 58 per cent of 75 to 84-year-olds (up from 31 per cent). The report authors put this down to the pandemic, which forced people to turn to screens and digital media for their communication and entertainment, and in some cases learn to use tablets and PCs for the first time.

Teenage girls also were shown to be playing more than teenage boys for the first time since the reports began. The two cohorts are fairly close in playing for about two hours a day on average. Curry said this was probably a result of the designs and marketing for games becoming both broader and more gender-neutral.

“I think it bodes well for the industry. If you’ve got 81 per cent of the population engaging in video games, they want to see themselves in a video game,” he said.

“They want a gender mix, they want different representations in the game, reflective of society.”

The report’s lead author, Professor Jeffrey Brand, said the overall split between male and female was not statistically significant given the sample size. The reported figures are 48 per cent female, 52 per cent male and a 10th of 1 per cent non-binary. The average player age of 35 is slightly higher than the last report, but the amount of experience the average player has is falling, as new players of all ages join in.

“Our mainstream discourse around who qualifies as a video game player still hasn’t evolved because we haven’t really acknowledged that games have moved on from the 1980s, 1990s console,” Brand said.

“The democratisation of games is very real, and when we stop and think about it we go ‘oh yeah, of course’. But I think we’re still buying into a dated stereotype about what video games are.”

Brand, who started his gaming journey with 1970s electronics like the Merlin and the Atari 2600, said some people who didn’t grow up with gaming can feel like there’s a fundamental difference between “real games” and the kind they themselves play in their downtime, when that isn’t necessarily the case.

He equated it to the difference between someone who considers themselves an avid novel reader, and someone who reads for pleasure less often or reads shorter form content.

“If you read short stories and nonfiction, or short fiction, you are still a reader. And you can be someone who enjoys cinema, even if you just watch a bit of it,” he said.

“Games are just like every other medium in that respect. There are a lot of casual games, there are a lot of in-depth games. Big businesses make games, but so do really small developers. There’s something for everyone. And that’s not different from television or books or films.”

3 Oct, 2023
Amazon gains ground on supermarket giants thanks to cash crunch
The Sydney Morning Herald

E-commerce giant Amazon is catching up to supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths in the online grocery market, as cash-strapped Australian households put the brakes on spending.

The latest quarterly consumer survey from investment bank UBS, which tracks the habits of more than 1000 Australian adults, reveals online spending intentions for the next 12 months have weakened and shoppers’ motivation to buy online is fading, particularly when a brand also has bricks-and-mortar stores.

The number of shoppers who said they planned to buy from the online stores of Kmart, Big W, JB Hi-Fi, Target and Myer fell compared with the previous quarter. Online spending intentions overall have also weakened, with the average consumer expecting their spending will fall over the next 12 months.

Despite this, e-commerce giant Amazon appears to have increased its influence in the online grocery market compared with pre-pandemic. The number of shoppers who said Amazon was their primary retailer for buying groceries online increased to 9.4 per cent from 8.9 per cent pre-COVID. The number of shoppers intending to buy from Amazon in the next year also increased compared with the second quarter of 2023.

The number of shoppers saying they primarily shop online at IGA also increased to 3.3 per cent from 2.4 per cent pre-pandemic. Wesfarmers’ troubled e-commerce platform Catch had gains too, with 4.1 per cent of consumers saying the brand was their primary e-commerce grocery retailer, compared with 3.6 per cent before COVID.

Coles and Woolworths continue to dominate the grocery market online and in-store, but the number of shoppers who say they primarily shop online with either of the two major supermarkets has decreased since before COVID-19.

44.7 per cent of consumers said they mainly shop online with Woolies, compared with 45.4 per cent before the pandemic, while at Coles this figure was 28.8 per cent, down from 30.8 per cent.

The numbers come as competition for budget groceries continues to intensify, and Amazon has said it’s seen good traction in its non-perishable grocery categories and for the company’s “subscribe and save” offer for repeat purchases of home and beauty items.

UBS retail analyst Shaun Cousins said in a note to clients on the survey that spending expectations were continuing to moderate thanks to cost pressures.

“Savings expectations have plateaued, with an increase led by high-income earners and stabilisation for middle-income earners, with low-income earners expecting to continue to draw on savings to fund spending,” he said.

Other recent spending data provides more evidence that retailers face a tougher fight for a smaller pool of shoppers’ dollars, with online-only brands facing a potentially tougher battle as households spend less overall.

National household spending data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released last week for July showed a 0.7 per cent fall compared with July last year, while discretionary spending dropped for the fourth straight month to land 3.3 per cent lower for the year.

Home goods and clothing spending had some of the biggest drops, down more than 7 per cent over the year.

ABS data also shows overall online retail turnover dropped by 7.4 per cent for July in seasonally adjusted terms.

The tough conditions have already forced some online-only brands to make tough decisions, such as fashion retailer The Iconic announcing at the end of last month   it was making 72 roles redundant. The business reported softer-than-expected sales last quarter.

Global ratings agency S&P has warned that the cautious consumer presents a challenge for companies’ margins in the near future.

“We expect that companies’ ability to pass through higher wages and other costs, thus preserving earnings margins, will diminish in the next 12 to 18 months,” analyst Richard Timbs said in a note to clients.


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