U.S. consumers were back to shopping, as new data from the U.S. Commerce Department shows that purchases online and offline accelerated significantly in November, following a rocky start to the fourth quarter in October. E-commerce was a particularly bright spot, comprising nearly half of the total retail sales growth during November.
What the agency calls “nonstore sales” reached $53.73 billion in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, a 10.4% increase compared with $48.67 billion in the same month of 2016. That’s an significant improvement from October, when nonstore sales grew 6.8% compared with last year.
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 agency will release its fourth quarter results on Feb. 16, 2018.
A historical look at the correlation between nonstore sales and e-commerce sales shows that e-commerce is a growing portion of nonstore sales. In the third quarter quarter of 2017, for example, e-commerce represented 73.5% of nonstore sales, Internet Retailer analysis shows. That compares with 69.9% in the third quarter of 2016.
Using those same percentages, this would suggest that in November, e-commerce sales reached roughly $39.489 billion, a 16.1% increase from $34.019 billion in November 2016.
E-commerce wasn’t the only bright spot, as the total retail industry showed significant strength in the crucial holiday shopping month of November. Total retail sales reached $435.47 billion in November, a 6.3% jump from $409.70 billion last year.
Every product category showed an increase, including the building materials and garden equipment category, which had a particularly strong month, with purchases increasing 10.7% year over year. Sales in furniture and home furnishings stores increased 8.4% year over year; electronics and appliances sales jumped 6.4%
Still, the web played a big part in the overall retail strength in November. When factoring out the sale of items not normally bought online, such as automobiles and fuel, total retail sales that occurred online and offline reached $295.29 billion in November, a 4.4% increase compared with $282.88 billion in November 2016. E-commerce accounted for 44.1% of that $12.41 billion in retail sales growth, according to Internet Retailer’s analysis.
The Adobe Analytics unit of technology firm Adobe Systems Inc. predicts that online sales will hit $107.4 billion from November 1 to December 31, up 13.8% from last year. Adobe, a provider of analytics and marketing services to online retailers, bases its estimates in part on its visibility into 80% of the online transactions of the 100 largest online retailers ranked in Internet Retailer’s 2017 Top 500.