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Online sales exceed in-store sales – sort of

U.S. Census Bureau figures show February online retail sales surpassed brick-and-mortar general merchandise sales for the first time.

According to the Census Bureau’s advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February 2019, adjusted non-store (meaning online) retail sales totaled $59.77 million, or about 11.81% of all monthly retail sales, during February 2019. Adjusted in-store general merchandise sales totaled $59.74 million, or about 11.8% of all monthly retail sales.

As defined by the Census Bureau, general merchandise stores include, but are not limited to, department stores, warehouse clubs, and supercenters. Meanwhile, online sales encompass general merchandise, as well as motor vehicles and parts, furniture and home furnishings, electronics and appliances, building materials and gardening equipment/supplies, food and beverage, health and personal care, clothing and clothing accessories, sporting goods/hobby/musical instrument/book, and miscellaneous. Neither category includes gasoline stations or food services and drinking places.

This means that overall, roughly 88% of retail sales occurred in brick-and-mortar stores during February 2019. However, it is still significant that online sales have reached a point they are higher than the brick-and-mortar sales of a category including department stores and supercenters.

Online sales, which eMarketer has estimated are about 50% represented by Amazon purchases, are now the fourth-highest category of retail sales, following brick-and-mortar sales in motor vehicles and parts, food and beverage, and food services/drinking places.
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