Ecommerce in 2022: Trillion-dollar sales make history, growth slows

In-person shopping growth outpaced ecommerce in 2022.


Ecommerce sales passed a big milestone in 2022, but also posted slowing growth in a year that was marked by a comedown from the pandemic boom.

The U.S. Commerce Department released the following data on ecommerce retail sales for the fourth quarter of 2022 and full year.

Q4 2022

On a quarterly basis, ecommerce sales of $262 billion declined 0.1% from the third quarter. This was less of a decline than overall retail sales, which fell 0.3%.

On an annual basis, retail sales grew 6.5% from the fourth quarter of 2021.

Ecommerce sales as a share of overall retail was 14.7%.

Full-year 2022

Ecommerce sales totaled $1,034.1 billion. That’s an increase of 7.7% from 2021. Totals came in below overall retail sales growth of 8.1%.

Ecommerce as a share of overall retail was 14.6%, which was even with the share in 2021.

Ecommerce retail sales (2013-2023)

Ecommerce retail sales (2013-2023)


Billion-dollar milestone: As widely expected, ecommerce sales crossed the twelve-figure mark. That’s the first time sales ever reached $1 trillion in a single year. The significant milestone is the result of massive growth during the pandemic-prompted shift to digital channels and demand for goods that has sustained into continued gains.

Slowing growth: In the fourth quarter, sales growth of 6.5% continued a downward trend in ecommerce growth, marking the low point of 2022. While online shopping is still making gains, the percentage growth is coming down markedly from the peak pandemic days. In the fourth of 2021, growth was 11.1%. It hasn’t reached double digits since. Even more notable is that the slowest growth of the past five quarters occurred in the three-month period that includes the holiday season, which is supposed to be boom time for retail.

Ecommerce as a share of overall retail. (2013-2023)

Ecommerce as a share of overall retail. (2013-2023)

Return to stores:For only the second time ever, overall retail grew faster than ecommerce in 2022. While this may seem inevitable that was marked by the realization of pent-up demand for in-person shopping, it’s worth noting that the second year where overall retail grew faster came in the pandemic ecommerce boom of 2021, when demand for goods peaked and supply chain issues piled up. With the impact of the wild swings dissipating in 2023, it will be worth watching whether this trend line recalibrates accordingly.

Steady share: Ecommerce as a share of overall retail remained stable in 2022, while continuing to track with the steady gains it was making in the pre-pandemic years. While the share was flat with 2021, it’s worth noting that ecommerce did not lose ground in a year that was dominated by a return to in-person shopping, consumer pullback on discretionary spending that is the hallmark of ecommerce, a privacy-prompted digital advertising reset and a general course correction by major ecommerce platforms that were too flush with inventory, people and space following the pandemic boom. In some years, holding the line is a kind of win in its own right.

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This Week in Commerce: Sweets & Snacks, retail earnings, PCE data

Check out the calendar of events, economic indicators and earnings for May 22-26.

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Photo by Omar Abascal on Unsplash

Welcome to a new week. CPGs are in Chicago to start the week as they show off the latest and greatest treats at Sweets & Snacks. In earnings, retailers such as Best Buy, Dick’s, American Eagle and Costco are continuing to report initial 2023 results. Then, we’ll head into Memorial Day with fresh data on the consumer, courtesy of the PCE Index.

Here’s a look at the calendar:

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