Ratifying what many other surveys have found, the U.S. government says that online retail sales in the last quarter of 2002 were very good indeed, up about 28 percent to an estimated $14.3 billion.
The report from the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said that the sales figures compare to an estimated total of $11.2 billion for the fourth quarter of 2001.
Total e-commerce sales for 2002 were estimated at $45.6 billion, an increase of 26.9 percent from 2001.
The fourth quarter 2002 e-commerce estimate increased 29.3 percent from the third quarter of 2002 while total retail sales increased 5.1 percent from the prior quarter.
Still, as a percentage of all retail sales, e-commerce barely makes the radar screen. The report said that e-commerce sales in the fourth quarter of 2002 accounted for 1.6 percent of total sales, while in the fourth quarter of 2001 e-commerce sales were 1.3 percent of total sales. Growth has been steady, however — in 1999, online sales accounted for only 0.7 percent of all sales.
The Commerce Department figures are based on a survey of about 11,000 retailers and then extrapolated. The government figures for some reason exclude estimates for some popular online purchases, such as airline and concert tickets and spending at online brokerages.
The Census Bureau defines e-commerce sales as sales of goods and services where an order is placed by the buyer or price and terms of sale are negotiated over the Internet, an extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other online system. Payment may or may not be made online.