April 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Online sales, up 25% last year, show no let-up in growth

Online retail sales reached $21.4 billion in the fourth quarter, capping a year in which online sales grew 25.4% over the year earlier, the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce reports.

Online retail sales reached $21.4 billion in the fourth quarter, capping a year in which online sales grew 25.4% over the year earlier, the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce reports in its latest measure of online sales. Fourth-quarter sales were 22.3% over Q4 2003.

Online retail accounted for 2.2% of all retail sales in the fourth quarter, the first time that proportion by the Census Bureau`s reckoning exceeded 2%. In Q4 2003, online sales accounted for 1.9% of all retail sales. The Census Bureau computes e-retail`s share of all retail using the total retail sales number. That number, however, includes certain categories that are not likely to ever be sold online, such as gasoline and sit-down meals, so online retail`s share of all sales is higher than the 2.2% of sales that could occur online. The Census Bureau gathers its data on retail sales by surveying 22,000 retailers.

For the year, online retail sales totaled $70.2 billion compared to $56 billion in 2003. 2004`s total was double the total of online retail sales in 2001.

Online sales growth is continuing its torrid pace this year, up 27% through February, comScore Networks Inc. reports.

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