The Federal Government is getting serious about online spending by consumers.
The Gillard Government has announced it will provide $2.1 million over four years in funding for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to track Australian online retail spending.
In its 2010 report into retailing, the Productivity Commission found that while the proportion of retail spending undertaken online remains relatively small, at around six per cent of total retail spending, it is expected to continue to grow over time as consumers and retailers become increasingly comfortable doing business in an e-commerce environment.
The funding, which was allocated in the 2012-13 Budget, will allow the ABS to track Australian spending data from domestic and overseas online retailers as well as 'multi-channel' retailers that sell online and from traditional bricks and mortar outlets.
Domestic online shopping figures will be reported on a monthly basis and collected as part of the existing ABS monthly retail trade survey, while figures for online purchases of imported goods will be reported annually, based on data provided by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and Australia Post.
Assistant treasurer David Bradbury said that this data will also help inform public policy.
“This funding will allow the ABS to track trends in online sales growth and provide better data to the government and industry,” he said.
“The retail sector is a major employer and contributor to the Australian economy. While it faces a number of significant challenges, online retailing presents enormous opportunities for traditional bricks and mortar retailers to expand and innovate.
“It also provides Australian consumers with access to greater choice and competitive pricing.”
Parliamentary secretary to the treasurer Bernie Ripoll said the funding demonstrates the government's strong commitment to ensuring that accurate data was available to industry and policy makers.
"Having comprehensive, high quality internet retailing data available to government and business will help inform decision-making about this growing segment of the retail sector."
An information paper is likely to be published in early 2013 to provide a snapshot of some preliminary survey results on online retail spending, while the first full data set is expected to be published in November 2013.