August 15, 2013, 11:47 AM

E-commerce returns to pre-recession growth

Online retail sales increased 18.4% in Q2, the U.S. Commerce Department says.

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U.S. e-commerce sales totaled $64.8 billion in the second quarter, up 18.5% from $54.7 billion in the second quarter of 2012, according to an estimate released today by the U.S. Commerce Department. It represented the largest year-over-year increase since the fourth quarter of 2007, before the 2008 financial crisis sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

Today’s estimate, adjusted for seasonality, says e-commerce accounted for 5.8% of total retail spending in the quarter, up from 5.1% for the same period a year ago.  The Commerce Department includes in its estimate purchases made from both PCs and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. On a quarter-over-quarter basis, e-commerce sales increased 4.9% on an adjusted basis from Q1 2013.

On a non-adjusted basis, the Commerce Department says e-commerce accounted for $60.2 billion of the $1.14 trillion of total retail spending during the second quarter, or 5.3% of total retail spending. Q2 2013 e-commerce sales increased 18.4% year over year on the non-adjusted basis while total retail sales increased 4.5%.

On a non-adjusted basis, when excluding sales in categories that are rarely bought online—such as automobiles and fuel—Internet Retailer calculates that e-commerce accounted for 7.9% of total retail sales in the quarter, compared with 7.2% in Q2 2012.

In a separate estimate, web measurement firm comScore Inc. earlier this month said shoppers spent $54.54 billion via PCs and mobile devices in Q2.  $49.84 billion of that came from PCs and $4.7 billion of that came from smartphones. 

ComScore started tracking sales from smartphones and tablets in the first quarter of this year. By including purchases consumers make on tablets and smartphones this year comScore is providing a more accurate picture of total online sales than it had when it only tracked purchases made on computers. Given that comScore says the $4.7 billion in mobile purchases in the second quarter of this year represents a 24% increase from the same period last year that suggests mobile sales in Q2 2012 were about $3.8 billion. Adding those figures to comScore’s figures for sales from PCs, total online sales, by Internet Retailer’s estimate, increased 16.2% to $54.54 billion in the second quarter of this year from $46.95 billion in the same period a year ago.

ComScore makes estimates of e-commerce sales based on monitoring the online behavior of some 2 million consumers who agree to be tracked, about half of them in the United States. The Commerce Department makes its estimate based on a quarterly survey of U.S. retailers.

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