Online shopping continues to grow its popularity thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than a third of people remain uncomfortable about shopping in large malls or centres, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data show.
The Canberra Business Chamber called on Canberrans to support local businesses, either online or in store, this Christmas as many local businesses were still struggling.
The ABS has conducted a monthly survey of a panel of people from around the country to gauge the household impacts of the coronavirus. The latest results were collected in the third week of November.
The survey showed that 40 per cent of Australians were still uncomfortable shopping in person at a large shopping mall or centre. Slightly less (36 per cent) were uncomfortable shopping at markets with many stalls.
However, the vast majority of people reported feeling comfortable shopping at local or corner stores and petrol stations.
These results coincide with the increasing popularity of online shopping.
One-third of Australians reported they prefer to shop more online now than they did prior to the pandemic.
More women than men reported an increased preference for online shopping, 42 per cent for women compared with 25 per cent with men.
Younger people were also much more likely to shop online than older people. About 37 per cent of people aged 18 to 64 reported a greater preference for online shopping while only 16 per cent of those aged over 65 reporting the same.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt said many Canberra businesses continued to struggle to recover from the pandemic-induced shutdown, primarily in retail, hospitality and the tourism sector.
"Many businesses worked hard to get themselves online, recognising there is a move to online shopping," Mr Catt said.
Canberra businesses had reported almost a complete reversal in shopping trends, he said, where previously about 20 per cent of sales were online, that figure had risen to about 70 per cent.
Mr Catt called on Canberrans to think about how they could support local small businesses this Christmas and across the summer.
"Small businesses helped us through the pandemic, providing takeaways and making coffees," he said.
"[Shopping local] helps Canberrans keep their jobs and maintains supply chains for businesses."
While he believed there would always be a place for physical stores, Mr Catt said the sentiment among retailers was that the switch to online shopping was a trend that would not reverse.
Similar to during the lockdown period, it would be up to businesses to determine how they can adapt to those changes in future, he said.
Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said he expected in-store retail figures to bounce back next year.
"Online shopping is not a threat to retail, it's simply a part of retail," Mr Zahra said.
"Most businesses have an online presence offering shoppers more choice and that's a good thing.
"We predict online shopping will gradually increase to 20 per cent of sales, but the majority of retail spending still takes place in stores."