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Virtual stampede: Online retail traffic surge chokes some Australian retailers


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Online traffic to Australian retailers surges in March.

With Australians forced into virtual lockdown and many stores closed, Aussies have flocked to online retailers and the unexpected surge in traffic has choked some sites. Myer and David Jones, which both announced the closure of all stores last month, saw a 67% and 78% increase in traffic respectively in March 2020 against the same month in 2019. Amazon Australia, a relatively new dog in the race in this country, saw its traffic surge by 125% over the same period.



The Athlete's Foot, rebel, Bing Lee, Officeworks, Big W, Harvey Norman, Dan Murphy's, The Good Guys, Kogan, Target, Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse, Nimble and Woolworths all saw online demand increase by over 50%, according to Semrush data analysed by Finder.

Our analysis, covering 31 leading Australian retailers, shows that March traffic exceeded even December 2019 demand for 15 retailers. With delivery windows at Woolworths and Coles booked up days in advance, small grocery retailer Harris Farm experienced higher traffic in March 2020 than across the whole of December 2019, with a 47% increase in visits. The Athlete's Foot, Officeworks and adidas's Australian sites all saw at least 20% more traffic in March compared to December.

Some large retailers have struggled to cope with the traffic. Big-box retailer Kmart saw a 90% increase in traffic and was forced to introduce a queuing system across its site, a procedure usually only in place for high-demand music ticket sales. Retailer supply chains have also failed to keep up with demand. Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker found that 70% of Aussies reported being unable to buy essential items in March, with toilet paper (28%), hand sanitiser (19%) and dry food such as pasta and flour (7%) topping the list of most unavailable items.

While both grocery giants were forced to suspend delivery to certain sections of the country, Woolworths took the unprecedented step of closing many of its stores early and converting them to fulfil online demand. Only on Wednesday 23 April, several weeks after the start of the COVID-19 panic-buying did Woolworths finally announce the re-opening of click and collect and delivery services nationally. Toilet paper was still unavailable for delivery.

For more on this story, keep an eye on this blog. If you're looking for information on how coronavirus has affected the Australian economy, head over to our coronavirus statistics page.

RetailerMarch 2020 vs March 2019 increaseMarch 2020 vs December 2019 increase
The Athlete's Foot93%29%
Kmart90%No increase
Big W81%No increase
Bing Lee80%No increase
David Jones78%No increase
Harvey Norman75%No increase
Dan Murphy's68%No increase
Myer67%No increase
The Good Guys67%No increase
Kogan65%No increase
Target63%No increase
Nimble58%No increase
Chemist Warehouse54%8%
JB Hi-Fi50%No increase
Harris Farm47%47%
Dymocks33%No increase
Appliances Online32%4%
Uniqlo31%No increase
Cotton On30%No increase
lululemon19%No increase

Graham Cooke's Insights Blog examines issues affecting the Australian consumer. It appears regularly on For regular updates check out twitter @gcooke42.

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Picture: Getty/Shutterstock

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