Web paves the way for strong shopping season

9:29 AM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
An assembly line at Amazon's biggest shipping center in Phoenix, Ariz. (CBS News)
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(CBS News) American shoppers are the driving force of our economy and they are in a spending mood.

The latest numbers show 247 million people went holiday shopping over the weekend and spent more than $59 billion dollars. That's a 14 percent increase over last year.

By noon Monday -- what's billed as Cyber Monday -- online sales alone were up 24 percent from a year ago.

The web is fast becoming America's marketplace and creating thousands of jobs along the way.

Amazon's biggest shipping center, in Phoenix, Ariz., is the size of 28 football fields. Last Cyber Monday, it's busiest day of the year, Amazon processed 200 hundred orders per second. Vice President of Communications Craig Berman says Amazon expects business this year will be even better.

"We've hired and are continuing to hire 50,000 seasonal workers to meet customer demand," he said.

That's in addition to Amazon's 20,000 full time workers, like packing manager Mark Pulley.

"They need to come up with a new word for busy. We've probably been on hyper-drive," Pulley said.

Across the country, online sales account for only about 10 percent of all holiday purchases, says Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation.

"The share of sales happening online is still fairly low," Davis said. "However, the internet influences now about 50% of what consumers buy."

That's because shoppers look for sales and compare prices online before they buy, and that it stretches over the whole holiday season. Online sales jumped more than 20 percent on Black Friday.

Even Thanksgiving Day was a shopping day this year. "Yeah, it started early," said Jill Poleri, a retail analyst with IBM.

IBM monitors 500 online retailers. Poleri says shopping was heavy throughout Thanksgiving Day, especially with iPhones and iPads.

People were even buying during the traditional Thanksgiving dinner time, which Poleri said was "sad, but true."

"We didn't see a lull. So I'm saying the iPhone is the new utensil. Now does it go on the left or right, I don't know," she joked.

If you think Thanksgiving should be sacrosanct, remember this. In 1941, the holiday was actually pushed up a week, after the head of federated department stores appealed to President Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving to extend the holiday shopping season.

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