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Web shoppers open their wallets wider

Online sales jumped almost one-fourth in the third quarter to deliver billions of dollars in takings to e-tailers.

2 min read
Web sites racked up $17.6 billion in retail sales in the third quarter, according to estimates released Friday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

That figure represents growth of 21.5 percent over the same period last year and an increase of 4.7 percent from the second quarter, the federal agency said.

E-commerce nudges forward

Online sales from July through September showed a slight increase over the same period last year.
Third-quarter sales in millions:
  Retail Online Online Share
2004 916,510 17,614 1.9%
2003 862,695 14,502 1.7%
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce. 2004 figures are preliminary. Estimates are adjusted for seasonal, holiday and trading-day differences.

In addition, e-commerce sales in the third quarter accounted for 1.9 percent of total retail sales, estimated at $916.5 billion.

Online retail sales are likely to surge in the last quarter, boosted by holiday shopping. Recent studies have predicted that Web site purchases will total between $15.1 billion and $15.5 billion this holiday season, up by between 23 percent and 26 percent from November and December last year.

Nearly 86 million Americans are likely to make purchases online this season, compared with 73 million last year, according to Jupiter Research. Consumers are also expected to go beyond the traditional product categories of toys, books and apparel when shopping online.

The Commerce Department gathers data from about 11,000 retail companies for its estimates. The data doesn't include online travel services, financial brokers and dealers or ticket sales agencies.