December 15, 2015, 8:00 PM

E-retail sales grow 35% in China year to date

China Post handled 90% more parcels bound for overseas, showing growing e-retail sales to foreign shoppers.

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E-retailers in China sold 3.453 trillion yuan ($534.45 billion) worth of goods in the first 11 months of this year, an increase of 34.5% over the same period a year ago, according to data released last week by the National Bureau of Statistics in China, a government agency. This estimate includes physical goods and virtual products such as software and electronic books.

“This year we saw many mergers and acquisitions for e-commerce companies and large Chinese e-commerce companies expanded by focusing on new business areas, such as cross-border e-commerce, omnichannel and e-commerce in villages,” China E-commerce Research Center senior analyst Zhang Zhouping tells Internet Retailer. 

In comparison, U.S. online retail sales totaled just under $305 billion in all of 2014, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Internet Retailer projects U.S. e-retail sales will hit $351.2 billion in 2015, making it the world’s second largest online retail market after China.

Online sales of physical products in China grew 33.0% to 2.887 trillion yuan ($446.87 billion) in the first 11 months of 2015 and web sales of virtual products increased 42.9% to 565.7 billion yuan ($87.56 billion) over the prior-year period, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Online sales of food, apparel and other household products increased, respectively, by 41.7%, 23.5% and 36.9% year over year. 

As China’s total retail sales grew 10.6% to 27.230 trillion yuan ($4.215 trillion) from January through November, the web accounted for about 12.7% of total sales, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.  

E-retailers’ rising sales boosted the business of China’s parcel delivery companies.  

Shipping companies in China delivered 18.25 billion parcels from January to November, up 48.1% from same period last year, according to the State Post Bureau of China, a government agency that oversees shipping services. The agency says e-commerce accounted for 60% of the parcels delivered so far this year.  

In response to this surge in shipments, delivery companies are expanding their networks and upgrading their technology. The State Post Bureau of China says shipping companies built 608 fulfillment centers so far in 2015 and purchased 7,666 units of automated parcel-processing machines.

The agency said 67% of villages in China now have at least one shop where shipping services receive parcels for local distribution.

Cross border e-commerce is also growing. Parcels shipped from China to other countries handled by China Post, the government-run postal service, increased 90% in 2015 compared with a year ago, according to the State Post Bureau.

For more information about the Chinese e-retail market, please click here for the Internet Retailer China 500

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