While shops where you can touch and see what you are buying struggle with the wrong kind of weather (though that doesn't bother Tesco, nor born-again Sainsbury now) "non-store retailing and repairs" was running 14.5 per cent ahead of last year in January.
There has been nothing like it since National Statistics started keeping these numbers in 1986.
Yes, that must be the Internet, not a surge of work for your friendly local shoe repairer, nor a mad rush of ladies sitting at home filling in the forms in their mail order catalogues.
Very possibly, though you cannot tell from the official numbers. And there is plenty of Internet shopping into the other categories, too, while some gets left out altogether.
NS explained yesterday that its Retail Sales Index seeks to cover all goods, but not services, sold by 5,000 outfits across Britain which account for 85 to 90 per cent of all retail sales. It asks them to leave out services they sell on the side, but to include goods sold over the Internet.
The results can be curious. We don't see the impact of Internet car insurance – even if it is sold off a supermarket's website. Curiously, though, we do see Internet sales of music and mobile phone ring tones for downloading - providing they are sold by a retailer, not by someone who has a hand in producing or processing them.
The upshot is that NS's 5,000 retailers lump together their Internet sales with those in their shops. Only they know which is which. Tesco reported Internet sales of #719 million in its 2004/05 year – that must be much more now. But nobody gives a monthly breakdown.
Internet shopping is one of the huge social and economic themes of our time. It impacts on the way we live more than nine-tenths of the numbers gathered by our zealous statisticians. Yet the scale of this phenomenon and how fast it is growing we have to guess. n n n Third time lucky. Yesterday the US Mint launched its new one-dollar "George Washington" coin, which it hopes will supplant the traditional greenback. Considering that a dollar bill now costs a British visitor to the States 51p there ought to be nothing problematic about that.
But the Americans have tried twice before, in 1979 and again in 2000, and failed. This time, too, Congress has stipulated that the dollar bill shall remain side by side with the new coins.
We had no such problem when the 50p supplanted our tattered ten shilling notes in the decimalisation of 1974. The issue was the bounding inflation fuelled by unfamiliar money. Later #1 notes were withdrawn painlessly when the new coins appeared.
The Americans had wonderful dollar coins before. They were solid silver, the size of a British crown or the 18th century Maria Theresa thaler which gave the dollar its name. They circulated in Nevada and were used to feed gambling machines.
They vanished overnight, as did a silver ten-francs in France, the instant the price of silver rose past their face value. Nobody is going to try that again. Pity.