November 22, 2013, 10:27 AM

E-retail on a roll

Online retail sales jumped 17.5% in Q3, the Commerce Department says.

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U.S. e-commerce sales reached $67.0 billion in the third quarter, up 17.5% from $57.02 billion for the same period a year ago, according to figures released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Third quarter 2013 e-commerce sales increased 3.6% from $64.65 billion in the second quarter, according to the department’s seasonally adjusted estimates. For further comparison, the $67.0 billion e-retailers generated online in Q3 is 12.5% more than was generated during the Q4 holiday sales season last year.

E-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales excluding foodservice—mainly restaurant and bar sales—continued its steady climb, accounting for 5.9% of sales during the quarter. In Q3 2012 the percentage was 5.3%; in Q4 2012, 5.4%; in Q1 2013, 5.5%, in Q2 2013, 5.7%, according to Commerce Department estimates.

When further excluding sales of autos and fuel—products not commonly bought online—Internet Retailer calculates that e-commerce accounted for approximately 8.7% of total adjusted retail sales during the third quarter of 2013, up from 7.7% a year ago.

The third quarter results follow revised 18.2% growth in online retail sales in the second quarter. Year to date, U.S. online retail sales total $193.378 billion, up 17.4% from $164.735 billion for the first three quarters of 2012. That puts e-retail on track for the fastest year-over-year growth since the last full pre-recession year, 2007, when e-commerce grew 20.2%. In 2012, online retail sales increased 16.3% over 2011.

On an unadjusted basis, the Commerce Department says e-retail sales, excluding foodservice, during the third quarter totaled $61.42 billion, up 17.3% from the same period a year ago. It says e-commerce accounted for approximately 5.4% of the quarter’s unadjusted total retail sales of $1.137 trillion. Following the same method outlined above, Internet Retailer calculates e-commerce accounted for 8.1% of unadjusted retail sales of items consumers often purchase online. 

The growth rate in the quarterly estimate from the Commerce Department is higher than the rate in an estimate released earlier this month by comScore Inc. The web measurement firm reported total e-commerce sales increased 14.6% during the quarter. ComScore draws on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers and excludes automobile and auction sales. Commerce Department estimates are based on a quarterly survey of more than 11,000 U.S. merchants.

Moving into the fourth quarter holiday shopping season, an advanced retail sales estimate issued by the Commerce Department this week showed consumers are spending more on retail than a year ago. The Commerce Department pegged unadjusted total retail sales excluding foodservice in October at $375.81 billion, up 4.3% from $360.33 billion in October 2012, and up 4.8% from September 2013 sales of $358.65 billion.

 

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