Total retail sales grew 12.2%, reports the National Bureau of Statistics.

China blew by the United States in online retail sales in 2013, and the gap no doubt widened considerably last year.

Consumers purchased 2789.8 billion yuan ($449.12 billion) worth of goods and services online in China last year, an increase of 49.7% over 2013, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported this week at a press conference in Beijing. By comparison, U.S. retail sales in 2013 totaled $262.51 billion; even a 15% increase in 2014, which is about how fast the U.S. e-retail market grew in the first three quarters, would only take U.S. e-retail sales up to just over $300 billion. The U.S. Department of Commerce will release full-year e-retail sales Feb. 17.

As in the U.S., online sales in China are growing much faster than total retail sales. In 2014, Chinese retailers, offline and online, sold 23.5 trillion yuan ($3.78 trillion) worth of goods, an increase of 12% over the prior year, according to China’s data-gathering agency.

“Fast growing industries, such as mobile internet and e-commerce, have huge potential and will be the engine for Chinese economic growth in the future.” Ma Jiantang, director of the National Bureau of Statistics, told the press conference.

The agency noted that its estimates of online and offline sales are not directly comparable because it includes in the online total such purchases as mobile phone plans and lottery tickets, but does not include those figures when surveying retail stores about their sales. The agency’s estimates are based on a survey that includes every Chinese retailer with annual sales above 5 million yuan ($810,000) and a sampling of smaller merchants.

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China’s gross domestic product increased 7.4% in 2014, according to National Bureau of Statistics.

Consumer purchases, including restaurant meals, grew 12% in 2014 to 26.2 trillion yuan ($4.2 trillion), or 10.9% after accounting for inflation, the agency says. City dwellers spent 22.6 trillion yuan ($3.6 trillion) In 2014, an increase of 11.8% over 2013, while residents of rural areas spent 3.6 trillion yuan ($580.0 billion), up 12.9%. Ma said 750 million people now live in China’s cities and that the country’s rapid urbanization has boosted demand for consumers goods.

More than 53% of China’s population of nearly 1.4 billion now lives in cities, versus 20% in 1980.

 

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