Last month, U.S. nonstore retail sales—a proxy measure for ecommerce performance—increased 15.6% from September 2018, according to an Internet Retailer analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce advance monthly figures released Wednesday. This is the highest year-over-year September growth rate since 2000, when it was a 16.4% increase, and nearly double the 8.2% increase in 2018.
Even after excluding an Internet Retailer estimate for fuel sales from the non-seasonally adjusted nonstore spending data, September’s year-over-year growth remained the same at 15.6% and is the highest rate for the month since 1999, when the comparable increase was 17.1%. So far in 2019, only July saw a higher monthly year-over-year gain than September nonstore sales–a 17.8% jump overall and 18.5% excluding fuel. July’s gains were largely attributable to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Day sales event,
Nonstore sales–which are mainly online but include other sales such as orders through call centers, catalogs, door-to-door visits and vending machines–don’t align perfectly with spending captured in the pure ecommerce figures that the Commerce Department releases quarterly. But the data is an early indicator of trends in the online sector.
Internet Retailer analyzes non-seasonally adjusted Commerce Department data and subtracts sales in segments that don’t typically sell items online such as restaurants, bars, automobile dealers, gas stations and fuel dealers. Advance monthly numbers are preliminary figures that aren’t broken out with the same level of granularity as finalized published sales, so Internet Retailer analyzes historical data to estimate fuel’s share of the nonstore category. More robust data for September will be released in mid-November.
Ecommerce continues to drive overall retail growth while store sales have been sluggish. In September, nonstore sales accounted for 63.8% of all retail gains, or 63.0% when excluding the estimated sales of fuel. Total retail sales jumped 4.5% year over year last month, or 4.4% without fuel. Both total retail growth rates represent the highest lift since 2014 and more than double the monthly year-over-year growth seen in 2018. When isolating traditional in-store sales, September’s growth reached just 2.0%, but that’s still an increase over 2017’s 0.8%.
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