May 4, 2010, 4:54 PM

The Top 500 show the shift from stores to web is accelerating

Tough times left plenty of stores with empty cash registers and only thinly stocked shelves last year, but when consumers did shop it’s clear they spent a lot more of their time and money online.

Tough times left plenty of stores with empty cash registers and only thinly stocked shelves last year, but when consumers did shop it’s clear they spent a lot more of their time and money online.

Sales of the 2010 Internet Retailer Top 500 also are strong evidence that in 2009, even as catalog and store sales slumped, consumers still used the speed and convenience of online retailing to do more of their shopping. As a result, e-commerce sales grew last year while total retail sales fell, reports the soon-to-be-released Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

The increase in online retail sales was modest compared to the first decade of e-commerce when the market was growing by 20% and more each year. But the Internet remains the retailing industry’s only growth area. Last year total e-commerce sales increased about 2% to $134.9 billion from $132.3 billion in 2008 while total retail sales declined year over year by nearly 3% to $2.07 trillion from $2.13 trillion, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports.

This year’s Top 500 Guide reveals several trends that emphasize consumers’ continuing shift to online buying and the shift to large retailers:

  • The Top 500 retailers’ sales grew 8.7% to $126.38 billion in 2009 from $116.28 billion in 2008.
  • Total traffic to the Top 500 increased 22.9% year over year to 2.58 billion monthly visits from 2.10 billion visits in 2008.
  • Web sales now account for 6.5% of retail sales, up from 6.2% a year earlier. Retail sales include general merchandise, but exclude restaurants, gasoline stations and fuel sales.
  • Web sales were the only growth area for most chain retailers. For 26 of the 50 biggest chains, e-commerce sales grew while comparable-store sales dropped. For 11 others, the web grew faster than or didn’t decline as much as comparable-store sales.
  • The Top 100 grew 11.6% and the retailers number 401 to 500 in the Top 500 Guide grew 2%, further evidence that a shift to bigger online retailers is taking place.

As in previous years, web-only merchants posted the biggest increases in Internet sales across all merchant categories in 2009, thanks to Amazon.com, which accounted for 52% of sales by merchants that sell exclusively online.

By category, last year’s results show:

  • Combined sales for all top 500 web-only merchants grew year over year by 19.8% to $42.94 billion from $35.83 billion.
  • Consumer brand manufacturers in the Top 500 grew web sales by 3.8% to $15.30 billion from $14.74 billion in 2009.
  • Retail chains in the Top 500 grew combined web sales last year by 6.6% to $49.80 billion from $46.71 billion.
  • Catalog companies posted a drop in sales last year, declining by 3.1% to $18.32 billion from $18.91 billion.

The Top 500 Guide ranks America’s 500 largest web retailing organizations based on annual online sales. Each retailer’s listing also includes: site traffic, conversion rate, average ticket, senior management, key vendors and where each retailer ranks in the market it serves.

The all-new data for Top500Guide.com is now live. Individual subscriptions for Top500Guide.com are available for $195. Discounts are available for multiple user memberships within the same company. Click http://www.internetretailer.com/top500.

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