Online Purchases Helped Boost Strong Retail Sales in 2010

Strong retail sales in December contributed to a huge jump in retail sales for the year, as consumer confidence bounced back and more shopping was conducted online, according to a Commerce Department report released today.

In December, retail sales jumped 0.6 percent as consumers bought more goods from online retailers, drugstores and building-supply companies.


When excluding auto sales, which can vary wildly, sales were up 0.5 percent, which was just shy of the 0.7 percent forecast that economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting.

The biggest gains in the retail sector were led by online and catalog companies, such as Amazon and Land’s End. That category witnessed sales jump 2.6 percent, the biggest increase in almost three years.

Earlier reports by comScore hinted that may be the case, with December online sales up almost 12 percent over last year. Many retailers encouraged shoppers to spend online by offering discounts and free-shipping incentives up until the last few days before Christmas.

Overall, the full-year gains were the most impressive numbers from today’s government report. Retail sales jumped 6.6 percent in 2010 compared to the year-ago period. The last time sales rose at a faster clip was 11 years ago during the Internet boom, when sales surged 8.2 percent.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google