Growth in U.S. retail sales that take place outside of stores, known as nonstore sales, accelerated in September, growing 0.5% compared with August 2017 and 9.2% compared with September of last year, according to retail sales data released today by the U.S. Commerce Department.
An Internet Retailer analysis of the correlation between e-commerce sales and nonstore sales shows that e-commerce growth remains steady, growing at 15.0% in September compared with last year and 15.7% in the third quarter.
Adjusted for seasonality, nonstore sales reached $52.44 billion in September, up 9.2% compared with $48.04 billion in September of last year. That’s an acceleration from August, when nonstore sales grew 8.4% year over year, but a slowdown from July, when nonstore sales jumped 11.5%.
Nonstore sales mainly take place online but also include other channels such as mail and telephone orders, door-to-door sales and sales through vending machines.
Internet Retailer uses the monthly nonstore figures disclosed by the Commerce Department as an early indicator of the health of the e-commerce market. The Commerce Department only reports e-commerce sales on a quarterly basis. The Commerce Department will report third quarter results in November.
A historical look at the correlation between nonstore sales and e-commerce sales shows that e-commerce is a growing portion of these sales. In the second quarter of 2017, for example, the latest quarter for which data is available, e-commerce represented 72.5% of nonstore sales, Internet Retailer analysis shows. That compares with 68.8% in the second quarter of 2016.
Using those same percentages, this would suggest that in September, e-commerce sales reached roughly $38.02 billion, up 15.0% compared with $33.05 billion in September of last year. For the third quarter as a whole, e-commerce reached an estimated $113.81 billion, a 15.7% jump compared with $98.35 billion.
During the second quarter, online sales reached $105.10 billion, a 16.3% jump compared with $90.40 billion in the second quarter of 2016. This was the highest year-over-year increase in online retail sales since the first quarter of 2012, when e-commerce sales increased 16.8% over the prior-year quarter.
The Commerce Department also reported that total retail sales, excluding sales in restaurants, reached $483.90 billion in September. That’s a 1.6% month-to-month increase and a 4.4% jump from the same time last year. Those figures were helped by what analysts say are hurricane-related purchases, including a 3.6% month-over-month jump in motor vehicle sales, and a 2.1% increase in sales building materials and supplies.
The consumer electronics category suffered the most in September, with a 1.1% month-over-month drop. At health and personal care stores, as well as home furnishings, sales fell 0.4% compared with August.