Census Bureau Logs E-Commerce

WASHINGTON — In its first-ever report on e-commerce activity, the Census Bureau found that in 1999 about one-half of 1% of all retail sales took place on the Internet. Business-to-business deals accounted for more than 90% of the online sales.

The report released Wednesday showed that the dollar value of e-commerce activity varied significantly among different sectors, although almost all industry groups were engaged in e-commerce to some degree. Twelve percent, or $485 billion, of the total value of all manufacturing shipments were sold electronically.

Merchant wholesalers came in second at 5.3 percent, and service industries — including travel services, brokerages and publishing — had 0.6 of their sales values online. Among retail sellers, companies that use the Internet and catalogs sell online more than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Of those, the most popular products are computer hardware, followed by books and magazines, the report says.

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