Online Retail Sales Grow Double Digits in Fourth Quarter
Fourth-quarter e-commerce sales rose to $17.2 billion compared to the $13.7 billion in retail spending tallied in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to figures released Monday by the federal Department of Commerce. The retail figures don't include travel or financial services.
While that's a record take for e-commerce--the previous record was the fourth quarter of 2002--it represents only a small part of the $918.2 billion in total retail sales in the fourth quarter. Online retail sales moved up slightly in market share to 1.9 percent of total retail sales compared to 1.6 percent a year ago. That, too, is a record.
By comparison, there was a total of $13.2 billion in online retail sales in the third quarter of 2003--1.5 percent of the $872.6 total retail sales. Those figures were revised Monday from data in the third quarter released last fall.
For all of 2003, online retail sales were $54.9 billion, up 26.3 percent from 2002. Online sales were 1.6 percent of total retail sales compared to 2002, when they were 1.3 percent of the total.
Online retail sales have been growing steadily since 1999, when the Commerce Department began tracking the segment. In 1999, just before the dot.com bubble burst, there was a total of $5.3 billion in online retail sales. That has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.
The federal survey, compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C., measures 11,000 retail establishments and uses statistics to estimate the total sales. Its survey of the first quarter of 2004--and the final revised figures for the fourth quarter and full-year 2003--is scheduled to be released May 21.
The Commerce Department's estimate comes close to a projection by New York-based eMarketer, which in September projected that online retail sales would rise 29.1 percent to $17.78 billion in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2002.
In a release Monday afternoon, comScore Networks estimated that online travel rose 35 percent in the fourth quarter to $10 billion compared to the same period a year ago.
The online data company also estimated that the fastest-growing online retail segments were computer hardware/software (up 38 percent to $4.2 billion); consumer electronics (up 28 percent to $1.8 billion); furniture/appliances (up 58 percent to $430 million); jewelry/watches (up 41 percent to $420 million); and music/movies/videos (up 47 percent to $720 million). The federal data doesn't include categories.