Nonstore sales, which are mainly online sales, reached $55.48 billion in March, according to the Department of Commerce.

U.S. nonstore sales grew at a slightly slower clip in March than they did in February, new monthly data from the U.S. Commerce Department shows.

What the agency calls “nonstore sales” reached $55.475 billion in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, a 9.7% increase compared with $50.573 billion in the same month of 2017. That’s a slightly lower increase than in February, when nonstores sale grew 10.2%

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 first-quarter results on May 17.

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 fourth quarter of 2017, for example, e-commerce represented 73.3% of nonstore sales, an Internet Retailer analysis shows. That’s compared with 69.2% in the same period a year earlier.

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Using those same percentages, this would suggest that in March, e-commerce sales reached roughly $40.66 billion, a 16.2% increase compared with $35.00 billion a year earlier.

Total retail and food service sales reached $494.56 billion in March on an adjusted basis, up 4.5% from $473.32 billion in March of last year, according to the Commerce Department.

Other figures released today by the National Retail Federation find that retail sales, excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, increased 5% year over year in March. The NRF estimates that online and other nonstore sales grew 7.6% in March year over year on a seasonally adjusted basis. The NRF doesn’t release dollar figures in its estimates.

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