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Economy in Brief

E-Commerce Sales Slip in Q3'20
by Tom Moeller  November 19, 2020

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that during the third quarter of this year, retail sales via the internet (E-Commerce) eased 1.0% (SA) from +31.9% in Q2'20 as coronavirus lockdowns unfolded. Online sales in Q3, nonetheless, remained more than one-third higher y/y.

The Q3 E-Commerce sales decline compares to a 12.0% rise in overall retail sales (7.0% y/y) during the same period. As a result, E-Commerce sales eased to 14.3% of total retail sales from 16.1% in Q2. By comparison, these shares are up from 10.9% in 2019 and 4.4% in 2010.

Details of the E-Commerce data are not seasonally adjusted. Sales of nonstore retailers, which account for 60% of total E-Commerce sales, remained strong and posted a 4.3% (27.6% y/y) quarterly increase following a 24.2% Q2 strengthening. Motor vehicle sales increased by 16.6% (19.4% y/y). Elsewhere, sales declined. Building materials & garden equipment sales fell 16.6% (+71.0% y/y) and general merchandise store sales were off 13.7% (+55.3% y/y. Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument & book store sales fell 10.5% but rose two-thirds y/y. Food & beverage purchases weakened 8.1% in Q3 (+161.9% y/y) while furniture & home furnishing store sales were off 3.4% (+49.1% y/y). Clothing & accessory store sales fell 4.1% (+33.5% 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.

Q3'20 Q2'20 Q1'20 Q3'20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Retail Sales (%) 12.0 -3.9 -1.2 7.0 3.4 4.2 4.6
% of E-Commerce Sales
Total E-Commerce Sales (SA) 100 -1.0 31.9 2.4 36.7 14.9 13.4 15.5
Total E-Commerce Sales (NSA) -- -0.6 36.9 -21.1 37.1 -- -- --
   Nonstore Retailers (NSA) 54 4.3 24.2 -19.8 27.6 16.1 NA NA
   Motor Vehicles & Parts 5 16.6 14.1 -11.5 19.4 9.8 -- --
   Furniture & Home Furnishings 2 -3.4 39.4 -6.7 49.1 6.8 -- --
   Building Materials & Garden Equipment 4 -16.6 103.9 -6.5 71.0 14.8 -- --
   Clothing & Accessories 7 -4.1 40.0 -7.0 33.5 8.7 -- --
   General Merchandise 4 -13.7 80.6 -42.8 55.3 14.2 -- --
   Food & Beverages 4 -8.1 102.0 8.5 161.9 58.7 -- --
   Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instruments & Books 2 -10.5 84.2 -25.7 63.7 -3.4 -- --
   Miscellaneous (Including Gas Stations) 3 8.9 48.4 -9.3 54.7 7.2 --
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