Pundits have been writing off the U.S. consumer for years, particularly in the post-recession era with households unwinding credit card debt and tightening their budgets. But time and again, those dour expectations have been proved wrong.
Sure, most of us look for ways to make our dollars stretch further these days. And we might not be so quick to make impulsive big-ticket purchases without doing some homework first. But at heart, we are still a nation of shoppers. It's what we do.
And increasingly, the Internet is our favorite shopping medium.
That has been clearly visible this holiday shopping season. According to comScore, a digital-business analysis company, 50 million Americans visited an online retail outlet on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. And they weren't just browsing. In fact, virtual cash registers rang up $816 million in online purchases -- a 26% surge compared with last year.
Sites dedicated to health and beauty, apparel, and home improvement were really buzzing, reporting sales growth of 34%, 47% and 49%, respectively.
But that was nothing compared to Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday, when Internet shoppers spent a whopping $1.25 billion. Since then, online sales topped the $1 billion mark five more times. Remarkably, there have only been seven billion-dollar days in the entire history of e-commerce -- and six of them have occurred in the past few weeks.
Total online holiday spending is currently tracking 15% ahead of last year's heated pace. By the time you read this, online shoppers will have spent more than $25 billion so far -- and there are plenty of beneficiaries.