Consumers shifted more of their spending on retail products to the web and away from physical stores last month, according to U.S. Commerce Department data released today.
The Commerce Department reported online and nonstore sales of $50.168 billion in March, up 11.4% from $45.017 billion in March 2016. Total retail sales, excluding motor vehicles and parts, came in at $377.632 billion during the month, up 4.6% from $361.020 billion last year.
Nonstore sales as defined by the Commerce Department occur on the web and include other categories of retail outside of physical stores, such as mail and phone orders from infomercials, door-to-door sales and home heating fuel dealerships. Analysts use the monthly nonstore sales figures to roughly gauge the health of the U.S. online retail industry, though the agency’s quarterly report on e-commerce provides a more accurate indicator of how fast online retail sales are growing compared with other retail sectors. The Commerce Department will report first quarter e-commerce sales on May 16.
Data released today by the National Retail Federation shows online and nonstore sales grew 11.4% through the first three months of 2017 compared with the same period last year. During that same time frame, total retail sales (excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants) rose 3.5% year-over-year. This is in line with what the NRF predicted in February, with projections showing online growth outpacing overall retail sales growth by a 3:1 margin. The NRF does not release sales figures, just percent increases.
Online and nonstore sales grew by 0.6% month over month in March, compared with the total retail month-over-month sales growth of 0.3%.
NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz says retail spending habits are trending as expected. “We are again seeing a pattern similar to previous years—consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up as we move through the year,” he said.Favorite