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E-Commerce Boom is in the Numbers

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) statistics on retail e-commerce released this morning illustrate it's on the rise and actually outpacing total retail sales in at least one metric.

On a non-adjusted year-over-year basis, the DoC reported that e-commerce sales grew by 21.2 percent over the same quarter last year. In the same period, total retail sales increased by only 6.5 percent. On the whole as a percentage of total retail sales in the third quarter, e-commerce sales represented 1.8 percent.

The third-quarter numbers also represent a respectable increase of 5.4 percent over the second quarter of 2004 on a non-adjusted basis, while total retail sales only marked a 0.5 percent increase.

In terms of dollars, what that means is that on a non-adjusted base, e-commerce sales totaled $16.5 billion in the third quarter of 2004. Total retail sales for the quarter on a non-adjusted basis were estimated at just over $923.4 billion.

For the first time with this report, the DoC also included sales estimates on an adjusted basis. The adjusted numbers are intended to statistically compensate for trading-day and holiday differences, as well as seasonal variations, though not for price changes. On the adjusted measure, e-commerce was actually worth almost a billion dollars more than on a non-adjusted basis, chalking up $17.6 billion.

On an adjusted base, total retail sales for the period were actually estimated lower at $916.5 billion, which increases the reported e-commerce sales as a percentage of the total by 0.1 percent to 1.9 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, (both adjusted and non-adjusted) e-commerce as a percentage of total sales has inched up by 0.2 percent on an adjusted basis (1.9 percent in the third-quarter of 2004 from 1.7 in the third quarter of 2003) or 0.1 percent (1.8 percent in the third quarter of 2004 from 1.6 percent in the third quarter of 2003) on a non-adjusted basis.

Forrester Research has predicted that online holiday sales will grow to $13.2 billion, which, according to its data, represents a 20 percent increase over 2003.

A new forecast estimate of the 2004 holiday online sales from JupiterResearch predicts $21.6 billion in sales, a 19 percent increase over 2003. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are owned by Jupitermedia.) Jupiter expects that the increase will be driven by the amount each buyer will spend (up by 2 percent) and a greater number of online users (18 percent).