Online retail sales continued their robust year-over-year growth in the first quarter, increasing 28.1% to $15.5 billion from Q1 2003 sales of $12.1 billion, the Census Bureau of the U.S. Commerce Department reported today. As has been the case since the Commerce Department started tracking e-commerce sales in Q4 1999, first quarter online sales were exceeded only by the preceding fourth quarter sales. Year-over-year growth has never fallen below 21% except for the third and fourth quarters of 2001 when the rates were 11.6% and 17.6%, respectively.
By comparison, total retail sales in Q1 experienced robust growth as well, up 8.8% from a year ago to $834.8 billion.
By the Commerce Department’s reckoning, e-commerce sales account for 1.9% of all retail sales, the same proportion as in Q4 and nearly a fifth higher than the proportion a year ago. The Commerce Department, however, compares online sales to all retail sales and those sales include categories that are never likely to be sold online, such as restaurant and bar sales, gasoline station sales and fuel deliveries.