May 16, 2007, 12:00 AM

Q1 online sales grow 18.4% from year earlier, Commerce Department reports

Online retail sales grew 18.4% in the first quarter to $30.6 billion from $25.8 billion in the first quarter of 2006, the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce reported today. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variance.

Online retail sales grew 18.4% in the first quarter to $30.6 billion from $25.8 billion in the first quarter of 2006, the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce reported today. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variance. Total retail sales on a not-adjusted basis grew 4% year over year to $935.3 billion from $899.3 billion a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the story wasn’t much different, with online sales growing 18.4% to $31.5 billion from $26.6 billion and total sales up 3.2% to $999.5 billion from $968.2 billion.

In the past 12 months, online sales have totaled $119.4 billion, up 21.6% from $98.2 billion a year earlier.

Missing from the Commerce Department numbers are sales on eBay.com that could be construed as retail sales. Some observers believe that could be about 60% of eBay sales, which translates into about $31 billion.

The Commerce Department also reports that online sales now account for 3.2% of all retail sales. It derives that number, however, by simply dividing the online sales number by the total sales number. By doing so, the Commerce Department includes in its calculations many retail sales that are never likely to occur online, such as restaurant, convenience store, fuel and heating fuel sales. Internet Retailer estimates that controlling for those sales, online represents about 6% of all sales.

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