December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

A new measure of e-retail sales

A sign of the newness of Internet retailing comes from new figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. While traditional retail sales declined from 4th Quarter 1999 to 1st Quarter 2000, as is expected, slumping after the frenzy of 4th Quarter holiday buying, e-retail sales grew. But total retail sales grew at a 9% clip in the 2nd Quarter, while e-retail sales grew at a slower pace, 5.3%, a sign that Internet sales are still attracting mostly hard-core users-and that shoppers still love their real-world malls. This is the first time the Commerce Department has reported e-retail sales figures. Sales are on track for just over $20 billion this year, which conflicts-wildly in some cases-with estimates by various researchers and consultants. The difference: The Department of Commerce’s statistics are based on a survey of 12,000 retailers. Most of the others contact 200 or fewer retailers. Who’s right? Tune in in January when the Christmas shopping season is over.

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