New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown online retail trade has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online retail trade increased by 23.5 per cent in March from February 2020, as the majority of retailers shut their doors for the COVID-19 lockdown.

“March was the eye of the COVID-19 storm for retailers, with all but essential service retailers forced into closure of their physical stores during lockdown,” Australian retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said.

“Whilst that pain of closure has continued during April and into May, we have seen some gentle upside begin as many stores enhance their online and delivery services.”

Mr Zahra said the jump in online sales may become the new normal.

“Online sales have skyrocketed, and we expect that shopping habits we have seen will be permanent, as retailers offer new options such as kerb-side pickup and retail-to-go options,” he said.

Online retail trade has also increased by 36.3 per cent from the same time last year.

This increase in online shopping has seen courier services inundated with delivery demands.

Australia Post has had to expand its workforce by 600 people, add eight extra freighter flights and set up 15 extra facilities to increase its processing and delivery capabilities.

“Postal and contractor parcel deliveries have increased as most retail shops have been closed,” Australia Post postal worker Tina Cassar said.

“Over the counter parcels have also increased, which has increased deliveries at the other end.

“As more people are at home, fewer parcels have been returning to the post office also.”

Brooke Docherty, 18, said online shopping habits may not disappear as quickly as they developed.

“I’ve been shopping a lot more online during COVID-19, as I’m making more money because I’m working more hours,” she said.

“I think I’ll continue to shop online as its easier and more efficient for me.”

ABS data also revealed in-store retail trade rose by 8.5 per cent from February to March 2020 due to panic buying but it fell 17.9 per cent (-$5,383.3m) from March 2020 to April 2020. The ABS said the result was the strongest seasonally adjusted month-on-month fall in the history of the series.