Economy Watch: Internet Sales Continue Robust Growth

The growth of e-commerce sales has been steady over the last decade, including during the recession, hitting $105.7 billion in the first quarter of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Conventional retail sales, on the other hand, saw its most anemic quarterly growth since the onset of the recession.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons user Intel Free Press
Image via Flickr Creative Commons user Intel Free Press

U.S. e-commerce sales for the first quarter of 2017 came in at $105.7 billion, according to the Census Bureau on Tuesday, an increase of 4.1 percent from the previous quarter (adjusted for the holiday season boost in fourth quarter sales), and 14.7 percent higher than in first-quarter 2016. That fits with the longer-term pattern of sales over the Internet, which have been growing robustly for years.

Ten years ago, internet-based sales accounted for about 3.5 percent of all retail sales. Their growth has been steady over the last decade, including during the recession. By 2012, about 5 percent of all retail sales were online. Now about 8.5 percent of all sales are Internet-based.

Conventional retail sales have not been growing nearly that fast. During the first quarter of this year, retail sales were up only 0.3 percent compared with a year earlier, the most anemic quarterly growth since the onset of the recession in 2009. That counts as more doleful news for a retail industry that saw waves of closures during the first quarter (and later).

According to RetailNext estimates, visits to physical stores dropped 12.3 percent during the 2016 holiday season compared with the year before. Sales were down 9.9 percent during November and December 2016, compared with the previous year, noted the in-store analytics specialist.