Jan 3, 2018

E-commerce sales may be twice as high as generally reported

E-commerce sales may be twice as high as generally reported, according to a new calculation by Thomas Paulson, who runs Minneapolis-based Inflection Capital Management.

Buzz: Rather than 9% of retail sales — as reported by the Fed and other sources — Paulson says Amazon and other e-commerce companies grabbed 21% of total U.S. retail sales last year. In 2016, it was 18.7% and the last time the rate was still at 9% was in 2010, he added.

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Data: Census Bureau, eBay, Amazon, Inflection Capital Management; Chart: Axios Visuals

What's happening: Few people buy cars or gasoline online and there are not many who buy groceries or restaurant meals on the internet. Yet, when analysts, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, measure the bite that e-commerce outfits are taking from brick-and-mortar retail, they generally include such purchases.

Why it matters: The impact, Paulson tells Axios, is to vastly understate the scale of the U.S. e-commerce industry, and to overstate the devastation in traditional shops.

"Amazon's gross margin rate is up substantially over the last six years because it has been raising prices and gotten into higher-priced products," Paulson said.

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