The U.S. government on Thursday confirmed what merchants already know: The real growth in retail is online.

The Commerce Department said fourth-quarter e-commerce sales shot up 16.1 percent from a year earlier to $61.79 billion, while total retail sales rose 6.5 percent to $1.12 trillion. E-commerce accounted for 5.5 percent of total sales, up from 5.1 percent a year earlier.

“Cyber sales are soaring since more people feel comfortable buying online, and the real game-changer this past holiday season has been the increased use of smartphones, tablets and iPads to shop online,” said IHS Global Insight U.S. economist Chris Christopher. “Today’s report is record breaking at a quarterly level, annual level, and as a percentage of total retail.”

IHS expects e-commerce sales will rise 17.1 percent this year to a new high of $227.5 billion.

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