Nonstore sales increased 13.2% in December year over year, the biggest gain in four months. Fourth quarter nonstore sales jumped 12.8%—a jump not seen in years.

The fourth quarter looks like it was one for the e-commerce record books. New data released this morning from the U.S. Commerce Department suggests that gains in online sales in the all-important month of December helped to close out an exceptionally big quarter for e-commerce.

What the Commerce Department calls nonstore sales reached $48.97 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in December, up 13.2% from $43.25 billion in December 2015. That’s the biggest year-over-year gain since July, when nonstore sales increased 14.1% compared with the prior year.

For the fourth quarter as a whole, nonstore sales topped $145.49 billion, a 12.8% increase compared with the fourth quarter of 2015.

Nonstore sales occur mainly on the web but also include categories of retail sales that are declining, such as mail and phone orders, and door-to-door sales. Thus, the growth in nonstore sales is consistently lower than the growth in e-commerce sales, which the Commerce Department reports quarterly.


The 12.8% increase in nonstore sales during the fourth quarter could mean that e-commerce sales alone grew about 16.0% during the same period—a growth rate not seen since 2013. The Commerce Department will report U.S. e-commerce sales on Feb. 17.

The agency’s release also provides further evidence that more consumers are opting to do their holiday shopping online, instead of in stores. An Internet Retailer calculation shows that sales in physical stores during the holiday shopping months of November and December reached $642.88 billion when factoring out automobiles and restaurant sales. That’s a 2.4% increase compared with $627.61 billion during the 2015 holiday shopping season, and a fraction of the 12.8% growth rate in nonstore sales for the same period.

Still, the retail market as a whole performed well in December, as total U.S. retail sales, including food service and sales of automobiles—online and offline—reached $469.09 billion in December, a 4.1% increase compared with $450.48 billion in December 2015. That’s a slight improvement from November, when sales increased 3.9%, but a deceleration from October, when sales increased 4.2% year over year.

For the quarter, total retail sales grew 4.1% compared with last year.


The National Retail Federation today reported that holiday retail sales, or sales transacted online and offline during November and December posted today by the Commerce Department, beat its forecast for the period and reflect a strengthening economy and improving consumer confidence in general.

“These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel good about the future,” says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retail mirrors the economy. And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead.”