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Economy in Brief

U.S. E-Commerce Sales Increase in Q1'21
by Tom Moeller  May 18, 2021

Online retail sales, more formally known as "E-Commerce sales," increased 7.7% (39.1% y/y) in Q1'21 on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, after easing 0.9% in Q4 and 1.2% in Q3.

The Q1 increase in E-Commerce sales compares to a 7.8% increase in overall retail sales during the same period. This overall measure of retail sales excludes the food services and restaurants. E-Commerce sales account for 13.6% of total retail sales, compared to 10.7% in 2019 and 4.4% in 2010.

Details of the E-Commerce data by sector are not seasonally adjusted. Sales of nonstore retailers, which accounted for 56% of total E-Commerce sales in Q1'21, fell 11.8% (+31.5% y/y) after an 18.1% rise in Q4. Online sales of motor vehicles and parts increased 4.7% (45.0% y/y) in Q1. Sales of furniture & home furnishings declined 16.8% (+49.0% y/y) while building materials & garden equipment sales weakened 5.6% (+63.1% y/y. Clothing  accessory store sales fell by roughly one-third q/q, but rose by one-third y/y. General merchandise store sales weakened 36.4% (+62.4% y/y). Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument & book sales were off 27.3% (+48.8% y/y) in Q1 and reversed the Q4 gain. Food & beverage purchases were little changed q/q but have doubled y/y.

E-commerce sales are goods and services ordered 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 and sometimes sale & price are negotiated. 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.

Q1'21 Q4'20 Q3'20 Q1'21 Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Total Retail Sales (SA) 7.8% 0.6% 12.1% 16.8% 3.1% 3.0% 4.2%
% of E-Commerce Sales (Q1'21)
Total E-Commerce Sales (SA) 100.0 7.7 -0.9 -1.2 39.1 31.7 14.1 14.4
Total E-Commerce Sales (NSA) -- -16.7 23.2 -1.1 39.0 -- -- --
   Nonstore Retailers (NSA) 56 -11.8 18.1 3.5 31.5 23.1 13.6 --
   Motor Vehicles & Parts 7 4.7 2.4 17.5 45.0 14.9 12.4 --
   Furniture & Home Furnishings 2 -16.8 20.6 -5.6 49.0 50.0  11.9 --
   Building Materials & Garden Equipment 3 -5.6 1.5 -16.3 63.1 64.4 16.9 --
   Clothing & Accessories 7 -33.5 47.1 -2.8 33.2 26.4 9.6 --
   General Merchandise 9 -36.4 60.2 -13.2 62.4 52.4 21.5 --
   Food & Beverages 4 -0.1 11.6 -9.4 106.5 141.1 57.7 --
   Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instruments & Books 1 -27.3 27.2 -11.0 48.8 62.8 6.3 --
   Miscellaneous (Including Gas Stations) 2 -2.7 14.6 7.6 24.2 -10.8 3.4 --
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