August 9, 2013, 12:11 PM

China threatens to overtake the U.S. in e-commerce this year

E-retail sales in China in the first half of 2013 grew 60%, a Chinese ministry reports.

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Based on statistics for the first half of the year, China could well overtake the United States this year as the world’s largest online retail market.

Online retail sales in China increased 60.2% in the first six months of 2013 to 855.9 billion yuan ($139.62 billion), according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), which oversees the country’s high-tech industries. If China’s e-retail sales come in at $280 billion for the full year that likely will exceed online purchases by U.S. consumers. U.S. e-commerce totaled $225 billion last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the current U.S. e-retail growth rate of 16% would bring the 2013 total to $261 billion.

The MIIT report says the web accounted for 7.7% of retail sales of consumer goods in the first half of the year.

Mobile Internet traffic increased 62.6% and sales from mobile devices grew 55.8%, according to the government report. More mobile traffic and sales can be expected as Chinese consumers purchased 244.4 million mobile phones in the first half of the year, 91% of them—or 222.4 million—smartphones that consumers can use to shop the web, MIIT says. Sales of smartphones increased 96.4% in the first half of the year, while sales of personal computers grew only 9.1% to 20.5 million, the report says.

When including online purchases by businesses, total e-commerce in China amounted to 4.98 trillion yuan ($810 billion) in the first six months of 2013, an increase of 45.3% from the same period a year ago.

While the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reports its e-commerce estimates twice a year, China’s Ministry of Commerce makes its own estimate annually. The Ministry of Commerce reported earlier this year that online retail sales in China totaled 1.3 trillion yuan ($209.7 billion) in 2012, an increase of 67.5% from 2011 and a growth rate 4.7 times greater than that of overall retail sales.

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