E-commerce has been on a steady incline in its size and expanse for the past 20 years. More than 250 million Americans, according to Statista’s Digital Market Outlook, will make an online purchase this year. That might seem like a large number. But taking into account all commerce, just how big is e-commerce?
According to data regularly published by the U.S. Census Bureau, the impact of e-commerce, on total retail sales in the United States, is smaller than you might think. In Q1 of 2020, online shopping accounted for just 11.8 percent of total retail sales (excl. food services) on a seasonally adjusted basis. This was the highest share on record – until COVID-19 hit the U.S.
The pandemic accelerated the switch to online retail at an unprecedented rate. With stay-at-home orders in place and store closures, millions of Americans turned to shop online. This resulted in a 4.3 point jump in the online portion of total retail sales. E-commerce sales amounted to $212 billion in the three months ending in June, which is equivalent to 16.1 percent of total retail sales. That’s up from just 10.8 percent in Q2 2019 and from 7.2 percent five years ago, illustrating the size of the latest jump.
Considering the current importance of online retail, 16 percent might not seem like much. But understand that total retail sales include motor vehicles and parts dealers, gas stations, and grocery stores where e-commerce still plays a small part. Clothing and footwear are seeing considerably higher online purchases.
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Michael N. Mercurio is a leading attorney in the field of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He serves as outside general counsel in buy-side and sell-side M&A, as well as in all business law and real estate law matters. As a strategic partner to firm clients, Mr. Mercurio regularly counsels entrepreneurial individuals and assorted entities on the many challenges, issues, and opportunities companies face throughout the business lifecycle—from start-up to eventual exit.
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