Retail Sales See Q3 Online Surging, In-Store Inching

When Amazon last month reported huge double-digit third-quarter growth—coupled with an equally aggressive prediction about the fourth quarter—many wondered whether the world's largest E-tailer was merely an outlier or if this was a truly positive hint. The U.S. Commerce Department has now weighed in, and the stats suggest Amazon will be far from alone.

Floundering for the first half of 2009, E-Commerce sales took a decent upswing during the third quarter, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Adjusted for seasonal variation, the government figures released on November 18 show that about $34 billion was spent online during the quarter, an increase of 4.5 percent from the second quarter and a 1.8 percent increase over 2008's third-quarter figure. E-Commerce sales accounted for 3.7 percent of total retail sales during Q3 2009, which came in at about $922 billion, a 1.7 percent increase over the prior quarter but a whopping 7.8 percent decrease compared to Q3 2008. But online still accounts for less than 4 percent of total retail revenue. As such, its impact on retail holiday sales figures will be diluted. Given the maturity of online, though, it's more likely an indication of strong purchasing overall, rather than merely a shifting of dollars from one retail pocket to another. If so, it may indeed be a very merry retail Christmas.