U.S. retailers generated $127.3 billion in online sales in the first quarter, a 12.4% increase compared with $113.2 billion a year earlier, the Department of Commerce reports. All figures are reported on a non-adjusted basis.
While that’s a slowdown from the first quarter of 2018, when U.S. online sales rose 16.1%, it is a slight increase over the fourth quarter, when online sales from U.S. merchants grew 11.9% year over year. However, there were factors impacting spending in Q4. U.S. consumer confidence declined in November and December, after hitting an 18-year high in October—in part due to the government shutdown. Consumer confidence, which is based on a survey that measures consumer sentiment on current economic conditions and prospects for the next six months, dropped to 126.6 in December from 136.4 in November and 137.9 in October, according to The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey. Generally speaking, when consumers believe the economy is doing well, they feel more secure and are more willing to spend.
Total retail sales grew 2% in the quarter, according to the Commerce Department, to reach $1.25 billion.
These retail sales figures from the Commerce Department include the sale of items not normally bought online, such as fuel and automobiles. When factoring these items out of the total retail sales figures, which Internet Retailer believes is the most accurate way to measure the impact of ecommerce on retail as a whole, total retail sales reached $852.1 billion in the first quarter. That would mean ecommerce represented 14.9% of total retail sales. That’s slightly less than the fourth quarter, when ecommerce represented 15.8% of total retail sales, according to Internet Retailer estimates. But it is a higher share than the first quarter of 2018 when ecommerce represented 13.7% of total retail sales.
It also means that ecommerce represented roughly 61.1% of all retail sales growth in the quarter, up from 53.4% in the previous quarter and 44.7% for all of 2018.
For all of 2018, online sales accounted for 14.1% of total retail sales, according to Internet Retailer estimates.
Meanwhile, ecommerce platform and marketing provider Salesforce Commerce Cloud recently released its Q1 Shopping Index, which found that online sales grew 12% globally in the first quarter. Online traffic, Salesforce says, grew 2% and spend-per-shopper online grew 10%. Salesforce’s findings are based on its analysis of online shopping activity of more than 500 million consumers across the world.