January 31, 2001, 11:24 AM

Commerce stats show that retail buying is shifting to the Net

Trend spotters take note: e-retailing is steadily growing, if you believe the Department of Commerce. And that agency’s numbers contrast with what has been grabbing industry headlines for the past 12 months. A year ago, Internet retail stock was the hottest thing going, Six months ago, many of those same stocks cooled off, ala Siberia. Perhaps the value of Internet retailing is a term still seeking a definition. But outside the swaying opinions and bouncing projections, are some cold, hard numbers. Beginning about a year ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce began tracking e-retail sales in its survey of 12,000 retailers. What’s emerging is a pattern of slow, steady movement toward Internet shopping. Although it accounts for less than 1% of overall retail sales, its percentage is climbing (up 15.3% in Q3 compared with a decrease of 0.04% for overall retail). This means consumers are spending the same on retail, but shifting more of that buying online. And while the percentage is low, the sheer dollars are nothing to shake a stick at: $6.37 billion for Q3 and $22.3 billion for the past four quarters.

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