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Economy in Brief

E-Commerce Sales Surge During Lockdown
by Tom Moeller  August 18, 2020

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that during the second quarter of this year, retail sales via the internet (E-Commerce) rose 31.8% (SA) from Q1'20. The gain followed increases of 2.4% in Q1 and a 2.2% Q4'19 rise.

This strength compares to a 3.9% Q2 decline in retail sales overall (-3.6% y/y). As a result, E-Commerce sales rose to 16.1% of total retail sales last quarter, up from 10.9% in 2019 and, by comparison, 4.4% in 2010.

Details of the E-Commerce data are not seasonally adjusted. Compared to last year, these figures show strength in most categories during Q2'20 as a result of stay-at-home mandates. It was led by a 105.3% surge (86.8% y/y) in building materials & garden equipment sales and a 101.4% strengthening (220.5% y/y) in food & beverage purchases. Sales of sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments & books jumped 84.4% (117.8% y/y) while general merchandise purchases strengthened 76.4% (81.8% y/y). Furniture & home furnishing store sales rose 40.4% (61.8% y/y). Nonstore retail sales, which account for 60% of total E-Commerce sales, rose 25.0% (29.6% y/y).

E-commerce sales are sales of goods and services whereby the buyer places an order, or the terms of the sale and price are negotiated over an Internet, mobile device (M-commerce), extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other comparable online system. Payment may or may not be made online. Total sales estimates are adjusted for seasonal variation, but not for price changes. They are also adjusted for trading-day differences and moving holidays.

The retail sales and retail E-Commerce sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Q2'20 Q1'20 Q4'19 Q2'20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Retail Sales (%) -3.9 -1.2 0.5 -3.6 3.4 4.2 4.6
% of E-Commerce Sales
Total E-Commerce Sales (SA) 100 31.8 2.4 2.2 44.5 14.9 13.4 15.5
Total E-Commerce Sales (NSA) -- 37.0 -21.1 27.7 44.4 -- -- --
   Nonstore Retailers (NSA) 54 25.0 -19.8 22.8 29.6 16.1 NA NA
   Motor Vehicles & Parts 5 14.2 -11.5 1.3 7.0 9.8 -- --
   Furniture & Home Furnishings 2 40.4 -6.7 18.6 61.8 6.8 -- --
   Building Materials & Garden Equipment 4 105.3 -6.5 7.6 86.8 11.3 -- --
   Clothing & Accessories 7 37.8 -37.0 57.8 43.6 8.7 -- --
   General Merchandise 4 76.4 -42.8 74.0 81.8 14.2 -- --
   Food & Beverages 4 101.4 8.5 30.1 220.5 8.7 -- --
   Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instruments & Books 2 84.4 -25.7 33.6 117.8 -3.4 -- --
   Miscellaneous (Including Gas Stations) 3 47.7 -9.3 5.5 40.8 7.2 -- --
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