The shift from department stores to online is one of those epochal business developments, like mass production or credit cards. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
Department store sales hit a new record low in the data going back to 1992.
E-commerce sales in the fourth quarter soared 12.1% from a year ago to a new record of $132.8 billion (seasonally adjusted), the Commerce Department reported this morning. For the whole year 2018, e-commerce sales blew through the $500-billion level for the first time, reaching $513.6 billion, up 14.2% or $64 billion from a year ago.
Not seasonally adjusted, e-commerce in Q4 jumped to $158.5 billion, 11.2% of total retail sales. E-commerce sales have doubled over the past five years.
E-commerce includes sales by the online operations of brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Macy’s, Walmart, and Best Buy, along with the sales of online-focused retailers, from small operations all the way up to Amazon.
People still say that e-commerce accounts for only 11.2% of total retail sales and therefore doesn’t matter. But this metric is misleading because e-commerce doesn’t yet seriously compete with a number of retailers, including gasoline stations, new and used auto dealers, and grocery and beverage stores. These three categories alone account for 52% of all brick-and-mortar sales.