WASHINGTON (FNS) -- E-commerce sales for the fourth quarter of 1999 totaled $5.3 billion -- 0.64% of total retail sales, according to the Commerce Department's first-ever e-sales report.
"Obviously, as a percent of all retail sales it was small, but e-tailing has come of age," Commerce Secretary William Daley said at a press conference.
"Its impact on what consumers know about what they can buy or what they should pay goes far beyond today's percentage."
The government's monthly reports on retail sales nationwide include on-line sales, but they aren't listed separately. Today's report was the first formal stand-alone estimate of e-commerce sales. Further Commerce Department surveys on Internet sales will be published quarterly. Business to business e-commerce sales will be available early next year.
"Billions of dollars of decisions are being made by retailers, by manufacturers, by investors, who have a need for accurate statistics. The public has a need," Daley said. "This number is the new benchmark."
Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said the government's figures are in line with what he predicted for the holiday season -- that e-commerce sales would account for about 4% of total holiday retail sales of $195 billion.
"The Internet may be relatively small today, but it's growing exponentially," Barnard said. "More and more people are buying apparel and everything else on-line. Don't expect miracle profits right now, but the Internet is to global society today, what radio, television and the telephone were 50 years ago."