June 15, 2017
E-Commerce Sales by Retail Category (2015)

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau for the first time provides a much-anticipated breakdown of internet sales by retail category. The data, though available for only 2015 and subject to revision, reveals a few key points:
  • The electronics & appliances category shows the highest e-commerce penetration of any retail category, with nearly 20% of total sales occurring online in 2015.
  • Clothing & accessories stores account for the highest total volume of internet sales ($24.2 billion), but e-commerce share remains below 10% (9.5%).
  • General merchandise, which includes department stores and other mass merchandisers, also represents a high volume of internet sales ($22.5 billion) but a low rate of e-commerce penetration (3.3%).
  • Food & beverage stores, which consist primarily of groceries and supermarkets, remain among the lowest for e-commerce share at 0.1% and only $1 billion in total internet sales.
  • Motor vehicle & parts dealers feature the lowest rate of e-commerce penetration, as most car sales occur at brick-and-mortar dealerships. This is likely to rise over the coming years as online vendors grow, but the current annual e-commerce sales for this category are just $528 million.
The U.S. Census Bureau warns that this data set, in its first release, is subject to a margin of error and accounts for approximately 87% of online retail sales. CBRE Research will continue to monitor future data releases and publish analysis on the topic.