While there is much speculation over how rapid the growth in online shopping is – especially from offshore suppliers – the data supporting this view is patchy, a commentary published on Friday, by the Reserve Bank of Australia, suggests.
Its conclusions might surprise enthusiasts for everything internet or those assuming that the most favourable exchange rate in 30 years must be sucking in keenly priced consumer goods, tax free.
Drawing on otherwise unpublished data on consumer payments, collected as part of its day-to-day work monitoring the payments system, the RBA said that, since 2005, the value of online spending on debit and credit cards increased at an average annual rate of more than 15 per cent.
The RBA noted though that over the past year there has been little change in this kind of spending (the year in which the Australian dollar achieved “parity” with the US dollar).
In contrast, the BA wrote, traditional card spending had increased at a slower average rate, of around nine per cent, since 2005.
Online payments account for around 10 per cent of total domestic payments on credit and debit cards, the RBA said.
International electronic purchases on credit cards and debit cards had increased at an average rate of 15.5 per cent since 2005, roughly half as fast again as the rate of growth in electronic domestic purchases.
However, most of this payments’ growth reflects the corresponding growth in offshore travel over the last five years.
The RBA wrote that while “it is not possible to specifically identify online offshore purchases, the data suggest that the share of this type of purchase in total spending remains relatively low.
“In aggregate, total spending at foreign merchants – including spending by Australians travelling abroad – is less than four per cent of total payments.”
The RBA also sourced some data from Australia Post to provide a complementary view.
Since 2005 the number of inbound postal items delivered through the Australia Post network increased at an average annual rate of around 10 per cent, in contrast to an average annual decline of one per cent in the total number of domestic and outbound postage flows.