Hot Topics: Online Shopping Explodes
Bing Crosby used to croon about silver bells ringing and "busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style," but a lot of this year's shoppers are only hearing mouse-clicks and the beep of their laptops. According to this Associated Press article, the week that ended Dec. 18 was the busiest seven days of online holiday shopping in history (or at least since the inception of the web in the early 1990s). Shoppers spent a hefty $6.3 billion on Amazon, eBay and other e-commerce sites. That includes $1.04 billion that shoppers spent last weekend, the last full one before the Christmas holiday.
That shopping spree added to the $32 billion that American shoppers have spent online since November, according to the Reston, Va.-based research firm comScore. That represents a robust 15 percent increase over 2010, and analysts are now expecting total holiday online sales to reach $38 billion by the end of December.
But, fortunately for the still-recovering economy, brick-and-mortar stores aren't suffering too much as a result of the online retail boom. An index of major retail outlets such as Macy's and Target reported a 3.4 percent increase in sales last week over the previous week. With holiday shopping traditionally making up as much as 40 percent of retailers' revenue, lots of executives, workers and investors are likely to be breathing a sigh of relief this holiday season.
In other news:
Another Place to Find Christmas Bargains? According to this New York Times article, Americans also are doing some of their Christmas shopping at their local pawn shop. Lake Jackson, Texas, resident Sue Gallagher, 54, explained to The Times that she's taken to working through her Christmas list at nearby Tom's Pawn Shop, where she found a nice flat-screen TV for her daughter for less than $100. Pawnbrokers apparently are trying to shed their industry's unsavory reputation, dressing up their stores with garlands and tinsel and piping in Christmas music. They're looking to attract middle-class shoppers who may be losing their aversion to buying pawned merchandise because of the glossy success of cable TV's Pawn Stars. "People look at it now as a place to find stuff and find a bargain, where before they may have been afraid of it or figured it was all stolen," University of Michigan-Flint economist Mark J. Perry told the newspaper.
Patty Duke, 65, Applies for Social Security and Medicare -- in Her Pajamas: The TV and movie actress, who won an Oscar at age 16 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in the 1962 classic The Miracle Worker and an Emmy in 1979 for playing Anne Sullivan in the TV remake, has a new starring role. She plays herself in a video for the Social Security Administration, in which she actually applies for benefits in her pajamas, as she's advised retirees to do in previous spots. "I had no idea this would be such a momentous occasion," she jokes. No word yet on whether her fictional "identical cousin" Cathy Lane from The Patty Duke Show is applying for France's Securite Sociale.
Ty Pennington's Next Act? ABC has canceled Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which has remodeled houses for deserving families across America, the Huffington Post reports. The series will conclude Jan. 13 with a special two-hour finale, in which Ty Pennington and his team rebuild seven homes in a single week in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo. But ABC is keeping the show's 47-year-old star, who's moving to its daytime lifestyle show The Revolution, alongside Tim Gunn.
Steve Jobs Statue Unveiled: When the Apple co-founder and marketing genius behind the iPhone and iPad died in October at the age of 56, eBay suddenly was flooded with ads for memorial T-shirts, figurines and even iPhone cases with Jobs' face sculpted into the plastic. Now we're moving into the next phase of Jobs adulation. Graphisoft, a Budapest-based software company, recently unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Jobs by Hungarian sculptor Emo Toth at the entrance of its headquarters. Additionally, Jobs will be honored at next February's Grammy Awards with a special citation for pioneering the sale of music online and other contributions to the music industry, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Middle-aged Drinkers Still Face Peer Pressure: We're accustomed to worrying that our teenage kids will be pressured into drinking by their buddies, but as it turns out, they're not the only ones being egged on. Healthcanal.com reports that a recently published Sociology of Health & Illness study of British adults age 35 to 50 found that many still struggle with turning down alcohol in social situations and found it difficult to make excuses to deflect peer pressure. The researchers warned that, "The approaching festive season could make it especially hard to stay in control of alcohol consumption in social situations." It's a good bet that caution applies on this side of the Atlantic, as well.
Cancer Survivor Who Helps Others Receives Entrepreneur of 2011 Award: Our sister publication, Entrepreneur magazine, has chosen Seattle-based Glassybaby founder Lee Rhodes as its Entrepreneur of 2011 award winner. She's not only the first woman to receive the award, but one with a special story. Rhodes, who founded the maker of hand-blown glass candleholders while she was fighting to survive lung cancer in the late 1990s, has built a business that has racked up a projected $6 million in sales in 2011, a 50 percent increase over the previous year. That's good news not just for Rhodes and her company, but for cancer patients and other people in need, as well. Glassybaby contributes 7 percent of its sales to philanthropic causes and so far has given $650,000 to about 100 different organizations, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos became an investor in 2008 and now owns 20 percent of Glassybaby.
Sometimes, You Can Get It Back: Most of us have something in our past that we lost long ago and still occasionally wish we had back, whether it's an old flame from high school or a favorite piece of jewelry that we left behind in some hotel room in Paris in 1986. That's why it's uplifting to hear the tale of an 84-year-old Milan man who recently was reunited with his prize Vespa 50 Special scooter, which was stolen from him 35 years ago. Worldcrunch.com reported that police found the scooter 900 miles away in Sicily during a routine roadside check. The recovered Vespa 50 Special, considered a design icon for its classic styling, was a little rusty, but otherwise was in good condition. Oddly, the stolen scooter was found just up the road from the village where its owner was born.
Last Word: "It's been a great ride, and I've enjoyed every second of it, but being out here relaxing in this beautiful place has given me the chance to reflect upon what direction I want the rest of my life to take." -- Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil, 50. He told the Las Vegas Sun that a vacation trip to the Bahamas has inspired him to consider quitting the glam rock group, which has sold more than 80 million albums over its 30-year existence.
Stocking Stuffer: While we're on the subject of Bing Crosby and Christmas, here's a clip of his somewhat startling duet with rocker David Bowie from a late-1970s TV special.
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