December 31, 2002, 12:00 AM

The definitive word on Q3 ‘02 e-retail: Up, up and away

The Commerce Department confirms what other researchers have been reporting: Online sales were up significantly (34%) in the third quarter vs. year-earlier levels. The Commerce Department bases its report on a survey of 11,000 retailers.

While everyone was anticipating what the holiday shopping season would bring in online sales, the U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau was confirming what private researchers had already reported: E-retailing is having a very good year.

At the end of November, just as Christmas shopping was gearing up, the Commerce Department reported that online sales in the third quarter reached $11 billion, up 34.3% from $8.24 billion in the third quarter of 2001. It was the second highest quarter on record, only 1% below last year’s fourth quarter sales of $11.18 billion.

E-commerce sales in Q3 were 1.3% of all retail sales of $827.46 billion in the third quarter. Total sales were up 5.8% over Q3 a year ago.

The Commerce Department numbers are widely followed because many in the industry consider them the definitive measure of online retailing. Many of the private researchers benchmark their own numbers against the Commerce Department numbers, but point out that their own numbers are in the market well ahead of the Commerce Department’s, usually by six or seven weeks. The Commerce Department gathers its numbers from a survey of 11,000 retailers.

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