Economy Watch: E-Commerce Sales Continue to Surge
- Feb 20, 2018
U.S. e-commerce retail sales for the fourth quarter of 2017 totaled $119 billion, an increase of 3.2 percent compared with the third quarter, the Census Bureau reported on Feb 16. Compared with the same quarter in 2016, e-commerce sales were up 16.9 percent, and for all of 2017, such sales were up 16 percent compared with full-year 2016.
For each quarter of the last four, Internet-based sales have grown by double digits compared with the year before—a pattern that goes back some years. And the growth of Internet-based sales has far outpaced total retail sales at the end of 2017. Total retail sales for the fourth quarter of 2017 were estimated at $1,304.3 billion, an increase of 2.7 percent from third-quarter 2017 and a jump of 5.7 percent from fourth-quarter 2016.
E-commerce sales in the fourth quarter of 2017 accounted for 9.1 percent of total sales. As recently as the first quarter of 2008, e-commerce sales were only about 3.5 percent of total retail sales. Since then, the percentage has been steadily growing. By five years ago, or the first quarter of 2013, e-commerce was about 5 percent of all retail sales, and as of a year ago, about 8.5 percent.
The bureau adjusts these numbers of for seasonal variation, but not for price changes. According to the bureau, e-commerce sales are sales of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated over an Internet, mobile device (M-commerce), extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other comparable online system.