Shoppers looking to avoid crowded malls -- or shut in by a massive snowstorm on the east coast the Saturday before Christmas -- took to their computers this year, boosting online sales 15.5 percent over last year. Traditional retail sales, meanwhile, jumped 3.6 percent, according to MasterCard advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment.
Electronics and e-books were major contributors to the online retail sales surge. Amazon hailed its Kindle eBook reader this year as being the most gifted item ever in Amazon's history. This is hard to prove given that Amazon never releases the Kindle's exact sales figures, but hey, who's gonna doubt them?
E-books performed wonderfully as well. For the first time ever, more eBooks were sold on Christmas Day than physical books. Sounds impressive on first glimpse, but as my colleague Ian Paul points out, "that sounds like claiming you're the most popular restaurant in town, when you have no competition for 20 miles."
Other tech products, like the 8GB iPod Touch, Garmin nuvi 260W 4.3-inch GPS, Microsoft software, and a gaggle of video games, also performed phenomenally this year, making it a solidly tech Christmas.
On December 15, its biggest day, online sales struck $913 million -- the first time they have bested the $900 million mark.
Though the figures are tremendous, online sales only account for 10 percent of all retail sales. And in case you were wondering, consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of the United States' GDP. Wowza!
This is great news for those worried about the recession's impact on the economy. Despite tons of job losses and a general aura of spending avoidance, people gave their hearts out this year, which could signal a more promising economic future ahead.