February 15, 2017, 10:28 AM

Nonstore sales drive the bulk of retail sales growth in January

Nonstore sales reached $49.2 billion in January, a 12.0% jump compared with last year. 

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New retail sales data out today from the U.S. Commerce Department suggests that online retailers did particularly well in January, following a record December for e-commerce.

The retail industry as a whole also did well during the period, but it looks like the bulk of the growth in retail is being driven by e-commerce.

What the Commerce Department calls nonstore sales reached $49.224 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in January. That’s a 12.0% gain compared with $43.965 billion in January of 2016—a slight deceleration from December’s 13.2% jump, which was the largest year-over-year gain since July 2016.

Nonstore sales occur mainly on the web but also include categories of retail sales that are declining, such as mail and phone orders, and door-to-door sales.

The numbers out of the Commerce Department give further evidence e-commerce is representing a growing portion of the total retail industry.

Total retail sales, when factoring out automobile dealers, fuel and foodservice, reached $287.83 billion in January. That’s a 3.8% increase compared with $277.42 billion in the prior year. An Internet Retailer analysis shows that nonstore sales accounted for roughly 50.6% of that $10.40 billion increase.

Plus, sales in physical stores grew roughly 2.5%—to $239.19 billion from $233.46 billion—in January, a growth rate that pales in comparison to the 12.0% jump in nonstore sales.

On a nonadjusted basis, or when not accounting for seasonal variations, nonstore sales reached $47.00 billion in January, a 14.5% increase compared with $41.04 billion in January 2016.

Since nonstore sales include the types of transactions that are typically declining, like door-to-door sales, the growth in nonstore sales is consistently lower than the growth in e-commerce sales.

The agency reports fourth quarter e-commerce sales figures on Friday. Based on nonstore sales figures released thus far, Internet Retailer expects that e-commerce in Q4 2016 grew roughly 16.0% or more compared with Q4 2015—a growth rate not seen since 2013. 

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