E-commerce is growing fast, but a question is whether it will ever match or surpass physical stores as the No. 1 way to sell products.

Last year online retail sales in the U.S. topped $81 billion. That's 4% of total retail sales.

Some firms get more out of cyberspace. In 2005, Office Depot (ODP) reported $14.2 billion in sales, including $3.8 billion online.

This year online sales in the U.S. will jump to $95 billion, 5% of total retail, says JupiterResearch.

But shouldn't online have a bigger slice of total retail? Not necessarily, says Anderson.

"People like to shop in stores, touch the merchandise and take it with them right at that moment," he said. "The Internet has barriers to immediate gratification."

For some consumers, the Internet is fast enough — and convenient. Many buy via high-speed computers. Cell phones could also boost online sales in coming years, says Patti Freeman Evans, analyst for Jupiter.
"Will stores ever be eclipsed by direct selling? We don't really know," she said.

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