The Census Bureau has been tracking retail E-Commerce on a quarterly basis for about five years. The information is released about halfway through the following quarter, and so the report for the 3rd quarter of 2004 was made available on Friday.
If you have never seen this report, take a guess at the fraction of all retail sales that are conducted via E-Commerce. Since you are reading a blog (and a rather obscure one at that), I'll bet that you guessed too high. It's still only 2 percent, at about $17.6 billion out of $916.5 billion last quarter. The growth rate for E-Commerce is about 2-3 times the pace for total retail sales, but even though that sounds like a lot, it will take a while for the E-Commerce share to become very important in the aggregate. (Simple extrapolation of the last five quarters of growth in each series would get to an 8 percent share in another 10 years.)
Let me give the process a boost. My favorite on-line merchant, at least in the area of food, is Jacques Torres Chocolates. Located in the area of Brooklyn known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), this guy makes the best chocolates I have ever tasted. If you cannot make it there in person, hit the link on the sidebar and treat yourself right this holiday season.