U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the fourth quarter of 2001 totaled $10.043 billion according to the Department of Commerce, up 13.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2000. Total retail sales in the fourth quarter were estimated at $860.8 billion, a 5.3 percent increase from a year earlier.
Total e-commerce sales for 2001 were estimated at $32.6 billion, an increase of 19.3 percent from 2000. Total retail sales in 2001 increased 3.3 percent from 2000. For the year, e-commerce sales in 2001 accounted for 1.0 percent of total sales. E-commerce sales in 2000 accounted for 0.9 percent of total sales.
Not surprisingly, the Department of Commerce estimate for fourth quarter e-commerce increased 34.4 percent from the third quarter of 2001. Total retail sales were up 9.5 percent from the third quarter. E-commerce sales are also slowly increasing their share of the total retailing pie. In the fourth quarter of 2001, they accounted for 1.2 percent of total sales, up from 1.0 percent of total sales in the third quarter of 2001 and 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2000.
The Department of Commerce numbers come close to estimates by comScore, which put U.S. e-commerce sales (excluding travel) at $10.8 billion for the fourth quarter of 2001 and $33.7 billion for the year.
E-commerce should continue to grow, especially during holiday seasons, as it becomes a viable channel for more consumers. According to the study “How America Shops 2002, The Overstuffed Consumer,” by WSL Strategic Retail, 24 percent of shoppers surveyed used the Internet for shopping in 2001, up from 10 percent in 2000 and 5 percent in 1998. In fact, the Internet was the only retail channel in the study to report an increase in its weekly use, from 1 percent of respondents reporting weekly online shopping in 2000 to 5 percent in 2002.
WSL’s report found that an almost equal percentage of consumers in the 18-to-34 age group (29 percent) shop online as in the 35-to-54 age group (27 percent). Higher-income shoppers are still more likely to use the Internet as a retail channel (41 percent with incomes over $70,000/year) than those with lower incomes (26 percent making $70,000 or less). Not surprisingly, convenience, which has long been cited as the biggest driver of e-commerce, continues to drive shoppers online. Almost 60 percent of respondents said convenience was why they chose the Internet as a retail channel. Less than one-quarter (23 percent) cited price.
“The proliferation of retail outlets over the past decade, the similarity of merchandise stocked, and the ease of accessing non-retail outlets, such as the Internet and catalogs, means that convenience is more top-of-mind for consumers, more essential in their busy lives, than ever before,” said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail.
According to International Data Corp. (IDC), worldwide e-commerce spending grew 68 percent between 2000 and 2001, reaching more than $600 billion in 2001. IDC also expects e-commerce spending to pass the $1 trillion mark in 2002.