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Australia's federal government will shell out AUD$2.1 million over four years to ensure that online retail spending is tracked accurately.

The funding splurge follows the recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s 2010 report into retailing, which found Australia’s online reporting standards vague and lacking in sufficient metrics.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will now be able to provide the market with detailed tracking on Australian spending data from domestic and overseas online retailers in addition to multi-channel retailers that sell both online and old school, high street style.

Domestic online shopping figures will be reported monthly, while it is expected that 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.

The Australian Retail Association has long called for retailings biggest growth sector, online sales, to be reported as a separate category within ABS retail trade figures.

ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said “online is now an integral and normal part of business operations for most retailers, so it’s only natural they want to benchmark themselves and gain further insight into online sales as they grow this part of their business further.”

The Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) said that the move was essential to the growth of the industry. ANRA CEO Margy Osmond said that while data gathered from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and Australia Post will provide a more accurate picture of the retail transactions, more detailed data from credit and debit cards and PayPal is also required.

“Retailers are keen to see as much data as possible brought together in this investigation in order to get an accurate picture. We already know some overseas sites produce fake receipts for goods and this may place limitations on some of the data collected. Online retailing is just one channel Australians use to shop and until now it has been under-recorded,” Osmond said.

An information paper will 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.

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