Tasmanian retail grows again in June, but is it sustainable?

GOING DIGITAL: Launceston Chamber of Commerce executive officer Jan Davis has described the need for local businesses to be digital savvy. Picture: Scott Gelston.

GOING DIGITAL: Launceston Chamber of Commerce executive officer Jan Davis has described the need for local businesses to be digital savvy. Picture: Scott Gelston.

The total value of retail trade in Tasmania rose by 0.7 per cent in June, representing the 32nd consecutive month of retail sector growth for the state. 

However, the figures also revealed that online retail sales were disproportionately small for Tasmania’s population.

Telstra’s 2017 Digital Inclusion Report showed Tasmania scored 49.7 on the digital literacy index. 

While this was a 1.7 point increase since 2016, it still placed Tasmania behind every other Australian state and territory.

Launceston Chamber of Commerce executive officer Jan Davis said that poor digital literacy rates may play a part in the continued success of bricks and mortar retail companies in Tasmania in the short-term.

Tasmania’s aging population are not as likely to shop online and buy products from international sources she said.

“We have an older population than all of the states, and clearly things like online shopping aren't as well taken up,” Ms Davis said. 

“Their shopping habits might be a bit different.”

Australian Retail Association executive officer Russell Zimmerman said that this was a trend that was prevalent Australia wide. 

“Online retail sales in the UK are around 14 per cent of all states, and the US sits around 12-13 per cent of all retail sales, but only 7 per cent of all retail sales are online in Australia,” he said.

“Tasmania sits behind this figure, but I believe they will catch up.”

In April, Amazon announced it would begin to provide its full retail offering in Australia. 

The subsequent stock market losses by large Australian retail chains demonstrate that the way in which most Australians shop will be entirely transformed sooner rather than later.

Tasmanian retail businesses that don’t adapt to the online marketplace by at the very least maintaining their own website will inevitably fall behind according to Ms Davis.

“We've probably a got a bit of a gap to bridge in the next little while, whilst we take advantage of these new changes, and a bit of disruption in the marketplace will drive that change,” Ms Davis said. 

“There is an important need for governments of all levels to increase digital literacy in businesses, and across the community as well.​”

Kingthing director Rebecca King, however, believes that there is hope for local businesses coming up against retail behemoths such as Amazon in the online marketplace.

The digital marketing firm often works with businesses who want to increase their digital brand.

“It’s not about having a cheaper price point online, it’s about having everything in stock, and having an amazing experience,” she said.

The Launceston Chamber of Commerce will conduct a members survey towards the end of the month, which will question how digitally connected their companies are. 

The results of this survey could provide valuable information about how prepared Launceston businesses are to handle the future commercial landscape.

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