Third Quarter Online Sales Static

By the government’s method of measuring, U.S. online retail sales for the third quarter of this year rose a measly .2 percent to about $7.5 billion.

But the new report from the Commerce Department for the July-through-September period is based on a survey of 11,000 retailers and does not include some popular online purchases, such as airline and concert tickets and spending at online brokerages.

Travel makes a huge difference in the numbers. Figures from the Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive eCommercePulse study released earlier found that an estimated $16.3 billion was spent online in the third quarter, jumping 60 percent from the third quarter of 2000 when consumers spent $10.3 billion online.

Travel led the eCommercePulse categories with nearly $4.3 billion in online spending in the third quarter, increasing 53 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.

The government said today in its report that online purchases climbed 0.2 percent to $7.472 billion in the third quarter after falling 1.8 percent in the previous three months. Online sales as a percentage of total retail sales remained steady at 0.9 percent.

Total retail sales fell 2.6 percent to $787 billion, the Commerce Department said. After the latest gain, online sales were 8.3 percent above those seen in the third quarter of last year, when they totaled $6.898 billion and accounted for 0.9 percent of overall sales.

The government’s online retail sales figures are not seasonally adjusted to account for holidays and seasonal factors, which can spark huge swings in buying behavior.

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