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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 16:47 GMT
US online sales hit record levels
Computer user
Online sales continue to grow
US consumers might have stayed out of the shopping malls and department stores in the run-up to Christmas, but they spent plenty of time buying online.

Department of Commerce figures show online sales grew by 28% in the three months to December compared to the same three-month period a year ago.

American consumers spent $14.3bn (9bn) online in the final three months of 2002, accounting for 1.6% of all retail sales - the highest level since e-commerce statistics were first compiled in 1999.

Compared with the previous three months, online sales grew by 29% while overall retail sales grew by 5%.

Useless data?

The biggest online retailer Amazon reported its second profit in the period and eBay, the largest online auction site, made a record profit.

Meanwhile, figures from department stores and other retailers indicated that Christmas trade in 2002 may have been the slowest in 30 years.

Despite the positive online numbers, the data is of limited value because unlike other Commerce Department statistics they are not adjusted for seasonal or holiday related factors.

Neither do the figures require a payment to be made for the trade to be counted.

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