thurs 27 may 2021


On-line Retailing and Planning for Cities – Has COVID-19 woken a sleeping giant?


On-line retail sales in Australia spiked in 2020 as COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed. Could that acceleration towards on-line retail continue and what does this mean for strategic planning, for retailing and centres?


Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that pre-pandemic in 2019, the proportion of on-line retail sales for food and non-food goods in Australia was around 7%.


For 2020, total on-line sales in Australia leapt to around 9.5% (quadrupling the 2019 average annual growth) and equating to around $33bn of on-line sales compared to $350bn value of total retail sales. This growth was driven largely by ‘pure-play’ (online only) retailers, rather than retailers with physical stores.


These percentages are still much lower than the 2019 UK figure for on-line sales of 19% and the North America figure of around 20%.


On-going volatility nationally and internationally makes it difficult to predict what the future holds for on-line retail vs. physical stores. However, traditional retail models and consumer demands are changing rapidly – adding further to the challenges for strategic planning, for property owners and retailers.


In addition to looking further into signals and trends, the presentation will cover some of the lessons from the UK of a reactive, rather than pro-active plan-making approach. The need for planning to be adaptable is highlighted to assist future responses to the shifts in future consumer expectations and demands for what centres should offer.




Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Retail Trade, Australia’, December 2020 (Released 5 February 2021)


Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘Online sales, December 2020 – Supplementary COVID-19 analysis’ (Released 5 February 2021)


Australia Post, ‘Inside Australian Online Shopping’, April 2020


Office for National Statistics, ‘Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%)’, February 2021

Paul Keywood

Mecone Planning Consultancy

With over 20 years of UK town planning experience, Paul Keywood has coordinated and negotiated approvals for development schemes across a range of commercial property sectors. He has also participated in steering groups and influenced strategic policy frameworks relevant to the regeneration of town and city centres.

Paul co-authored the recent Turley publication titled ‘Making Sense of Mixed-Use Town Centres’ and is a regular contributor to thought-leadership and features on the future of retailing and logistics. He has spoken at events, including the RICS national Planning and Development conference in June 2019 in London.