Total online retail sales reached $10.243 billion in the second quarter, up 24.2% from Q2 of last year, the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce reported today. The Census Bureau estimates total Q2 retail sales at $825.5 billion, an increase of 2.5% over the year-ago period. Q2 e-retail sales accounted for 1.2% of total retail sales, up from 1% in Q2 2001, but down slightly from 1.3% in the first quarter of this year.
The Census Bureau also reported that Q2 online sales rose 3.7% from the prior quarter. Total retail sales rose 11%.
Other than Q4 2001, when online sales hit $11.178 billion, this year’s Q2 online sales marks the largest amount of quarterly e-retail sales since the Census Bureau began tracking such figures in Q4 1999, when e-retail sales reached $5.481 billion.
The Census Bureau’s figures are considered to be the benchmark of online sales figures, because they are based on figures gathered from a random sampling of 11,000 retailers. The Bureau does not include sales recorded by online travel services, ticket sales agencies or financial brokers and dealers.
Online sales figures tracked by other organizations show varied results, due to different methods of tracking data. BizRate.com reported last month that Q2 online sales rose 51% over the year-ago period, to $11.92 billion from $7.91 billion. It said Q2 sales rose 41% over the prior quarter. BizRate bases its figures on surveys it conducts at 2,000 retailers, where it surveys shoppers with pop-up windows at checkout, plus other industry estimates.
BizRate figures the growth in online sales is partly due to changes in consumers’ online behavior following Sept. 11. "After that, online sales started to ramp up due to people looking for deals online and comparison shopping," a spokeswoman says, adding that many more people began checking online news reports following the events of Sept. 11 and then stayed online to shop.
ComScore Networks Inc., which compiles its figures from a panel of 1.5 million web users, reported last month that Q2 online sales, not including travel industry sales, rose 28% over a year ago, to $9.7 billion from $7.6 billion. But it said Q2 showed a decline of 3% over Q1, for which comScore reported sales of $10.1 billion.
"We continue to see that e-commerce is a sensitive barometer of consumer sentiment, and the sequential sales trends are reflective of that," says Dan Hess, vice president of comScore. "But that’s to be expected, given the economic climate overall."
And sales for Q3 are on a pace to rise, he says. ComScore reports that July online sales, excluding travel sales, increased 2% over June, to $3.1 billion. Hess notes that July online sales of computer hardware rose 34% over June, to $927 million from $693 million.