Keeping Track: Retail sales

Monthly growth, a slow quarter

While retail sales for March were up from the previous month, sales from the first quarter of this year fell 8.9 percent from the previous quarter to $747.8 billion. (Sales of durable goods and new homes have also seen recent declines.)

But that wasn't what the buzz was about. E-commerce sales, which the US Commerce Department started tracking last year, rose 1.2 percent in the first quarter of this year from the previous quarter, from $5.2 billion to $5.3 billion.

While e-commerce spending accounts for only a tiny fraction of overall retail sales, some experts think the numbers are much higher. The Commerce Department figures don't include online expenditures such as airline tickets and financial-broker services. Forrester Research, a technology-research firm, estimates total US online spending is closer to $8.2 billion.

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