Online retail sales in the US surged to more than $50bn in 2003, according to new figures from the US Commerce Department.
This indicates an increase of 26.3% from the year before, when e-commerce sales – purchases over the Internet, e-mail or other electronic networks - occupied 1.6% of total retail sales worth $3.5 trillion.
The sales were concentrated in the fourth quarter of 2003, when holiday shopping propelled e-commerce to take a record share of 2% of total retail sales.
Overall, retail sales grew 5.4% through 2003.
Furthermore, early figures for 2004 showed sales for Valentine's Day were up 40% on the year before, indicating continuing growth this year.
The available data paints a very clear picture of a continuing trend for the type of rapid growth seen in recent years for online shopping.
However, the $50.4bn figure for 2003 does mark a slight reduction in the pace of expansion.
The Commerce Department conducted its research through a sample survey of 11,000 retailers.
However, it did not include online travel services, financial brokers or ticket sales agencies.
If those sectors where included, some estimates put total online retail sales for 2003 as high as $100bn.
American retail sales make up nearly 40 percent of overall personal spending, which comprises about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
The findings of this report indicate that the share of total retail sales accounted for by e-commerce in 2003 reached its highest level since the Commerce Department began tracking it back in 1999.
Sources: BBC Online, CNN, Reuters
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