To help retailers better understand the opportunities of online retailing, the federal government will hold an online retail forum in early 2011.

Interested retailers, together with other parts of the supply chain, will hear about Australian online success stories and discuss the opportunities and challenges that exist in the digital economy.

This comes following a report released by Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, which has estimated that online retail sales by Australians in 2009 totalled between $19 and $24 billion, with at least 50 to 80 per cent of the amount spent with Australian online retail outlets.

"The Government is committed to giving Australian households and businesses every possible advantage and opportunity when it comes to shopping online. Among other things, this report shows that online retailing is only about three per cent of the Australian total, which we believe has great potential to grow into the future," he said.

The Access Economics Report suggests that the National Broadband Network is likely to be a catalyst for the development of e-commerce in Australia.

"The rollout of the NBN will provide increased speed reliability and access, all of which are likely to facilitate the provision and use of a wider range of online goods and services, further enhancing the potential of e-commerce," Conroy said.

The report acknowledges that local retailers could benefit by increasing their online presence. The report finds that, to date, some retailers have not gone online because they do not understand the benefits and are concerned about the cost of set up and maintenance of an online sales presence.

According to Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry, the Gillard Government is committed to supporting Australia's small businesses take advantage of online trading.

"Online retailing is here to stay. It is something every Australian consumer and every retailer is going to have to come to grips with, and sooner rather than later,” he said.

“The Productivity Commission inquiry and next year's forum will provide a valuable insight into the challenges faced by the Australian retail sector in a globalised shopping world, and lay the foundations for a vibrant Australian retail sector for the next 25 years.”