February 23, 2010, 12:00 AM

Web’s share of retail sales increased 13% in the fourth quarter

E-commerce accounted for 6.9% of total retail sales in Q4, up from 6.1% in the same period a year earlier, according to an analysis of U.S. Commerce Department data. For the full year, the web’s share increased to 6.5% in 2009 from 6.2% the prior year.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Online retailers took a significantly larger slice of the total retail pie in 2009, based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, the web accounted for 6.9% of sales that could have occurred online, a 13% increase from 6.1% in the same period a year earlier. Those figures are adjusted for seasonal variations such as when holidays fall, but not for price changes. Unadjusted, the web accounted for 7.3% of possible retail sales, up 12% from 6.5% a year earlier.

For all of 2009, the web accounted for 6.5% of retail sales that could occur online, up 5% from 6.2% a year earlier.

Those percentages are based on subtracting from the Commerce Department’s estimate of total retail sales several categories of purchases that never or rarely take place online. Those categories include sales at restaurants and bars, gasoline stations and food and beverage stores, and sales of automobiles and fuel.

The Census Bureau of the U.S. Commerce Department estimated earlier this month that total e-commerce sales for 2009 were $134.9 billion, a 2% increase from 2008. That was a far better performance than bricks-and-mortar stores turned in, as total retail sales fell 7.0% in 2009, the Commerce Department says.

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