Australians headed in droves to shopping centres following COVID lockdowns, as the nation’s major centres posted a record $54 billion in sales over 2022.
A survey by Shopping Centre News found that Melbourne’s Chadstone complex was Australia’s biggest retail centre with a turnover of $2.7 billion.
Westfield Chermside in Brisbane was the next largest with $1.2 billion in sales.
There was a three-way tie between Sydney’s Bondi Junction, and Melbourne’s Highpoint and Westfield Fountain Gate centres for third place, with all three recording $1.1 billion in total sales.
Three new centres had at least $1 billion in sales – Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast, Westfield Carindale in Brisbane, and Miranda in Sydney.
All told, the survey of 91 centres showed 85 per cent had increased their revenue in 2022, the first full year of trade without pandemic restrictions since 2019.
Monash University’s Eloise Zoppos said research from before and after lockdowns showed customers definitely prefer shops over online outlets.
“Online shopping soared during the pandemic, a trend we’d seen on the rise in Australia for a long time, but we’re now seeing a slight correction in this trend,” Dr Zoppos said.
“There’s many elements of bricks and mortar retail that simply can’t be replicated online and that keeps customers coming back to physical stores, like the sensory and tactile product experience, the social element and, when done right, face-to-face customer service.”
However, recent data about online sales last year illustrated that lockdowns created lasting changes in the way Australians buy goods.
Australia Post figures show a record $64.8 billion was spent online in 2022 – bringing the proportion of e-commerce in total retail sales to 18 per cent (almost one in five dollars).
The sales data for shops and online sales could be read as an indication that the type of goods Australians are buying in-store versus online is shifting rapidly.
For example, the biggest driver in online retail sales last year was food and liquor, having grown by 11.4 per cent over the year to a whopping $13.1 billion.
That suggests one of the hangovers from COVID is that Australians are opting to do more of their grocery shopping online, while still heading to the shops for other items.
“Australians are shopping online more often, with 37 per cent shopping fortnightly compared to 20 per cent pre-COVID,” Australia Post general manager of ecommerce Gary Starr said.
“By 2033, we expect around one in three dollars will be spent online.”
Spending across shopping centres and online stores will likely slow in 2023 as rising interest rates and high inflation hit households, with retail sales data for February, due next week, predicted to be weaker.
Figures collected by big banks including National Australia Bank and the Commonwealth Bank have shown for months that spending growth has slowed on debit and credit cards.