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Online Versus Physical Stores: The Battle In Chart Form

05 May 2010 - 09:10 by Graham Miller

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Thinking of starting an online store to support safe shopping online and wondering what kind of products to stock? Or simply curious as to what consumers look for while shopping online and for what types of products they still turn to bricks-and-mortar stores?

New research from online ad company Permuto has been distilled into chart form, using figures from the US Census Bureau, which gives an insight into what our American cousins buy online and what they buy in store. Whilst there are doubtless significant market and cultural differences, the results are nevertheless revealing.

The chart shows e-commerce sales as a percentage of total sales in several distinct categories, including everything from 'drugs and health aids' through to 'sporting goods'. There are multiple categories in which safe shopping online constitutes 60 or 70 per cent of total sales. These categories include 'music and video', 'electronics' and 'clothing'. Meanwhile, there are other areas in which online retailers barely appear to have a presence, such as 'drugs and health aids'.

Some categories indicate a balance across the channels with the 'computer hardware and software' category indicating that bricks-and-mortar stores just have the edge, with a little over 50 per cent of total sales still being made in store. In most categories, however, more sales are made online than in physical stores.

The chart also reveals the monetary value of sales in each category according to the US Census Bureau's statistics. Some highlights here include the 'clothing' category, where in the US, online sales are worth $13.6 billion, compared to sales in physical stores, at $7.0 billion. And in the electronics category, the gap between online and physical stores is clear: online sales are worth $8.4 billion compared to $2.9 billion for physical sales. The chart can be viewed at