eMarketer: Back-to-school drives $50 billion in summer e-commerce sales

New York – Shoppers spent $50.17 billion online during the 2014 back-to-school shopping season, which represents a 16% gain from $43.26 billion in the year-ago period, according to eMarketer. Online commerce during the months of July and August — the main months for back-to-school shopping — accounted for approximately one-sixth of retail ecommerce sales for the year, according to eMarketer estimates, as well as 70.5% of retail ecommerce sales in third quarter 2014.

Combined with the holiday shopping season, which in past years has accounted for nearly 25% of the year's retail ecommerce sales, eMarketer estimates, these two nationwide shopping sprees will provide a much-needed boost to U.S. retailers, totaling more than 40% of the year's ecommerce sales during just one-third of the calendar months.

In the core product categories most commonly purchased for back-to-school, including apparel and accessories, books/music/video, computers and consumer electronics, office equipment and supplies, and toy and hobby purchases, EMarketer estimates a 16.5% increase in retail ecommerce sales to $27.38 billion from $23.51 billion in 2013.

Some of the fastest-growing US-based e-commerce retailers in apparel, electronics, discount retailers and department stores also benefit from back-to-school sales. For example, stores like Wal-Mart and Target that sell products across the board for back-to-school have seen well over 20% growth in ecommerce revenues during the trailing 12 months, while electronics stores like Best Buy and Hhgregg, as well as mass-market department stores such as Belk, Macy's and J.C. Penney, are also increasing their e-commerce revenues at a healthy clip year-over-year.

Apple is by far the most productive among core back-to-school product category retailers, selling on average $4,472 worth of merchandise per square foot in the past 12 months, according to EMarketer. However, Lululemon Athletica came in second by this metric, with sales per square foot significantly lower (but still significant) at $1,778, while membership warehouses PriceSmart and Costco were the only other two companies in these categories to clear an average of $1,000 in sales per square foot across their portfolios in the past 12 months.

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