News Column

Online Shoppers Register Record Sales

Dec. 4, 2012

Susan Thurston, Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.

santa claus

Oh, how we love the peace, selection and convenience of online holiday shopping.

Consumers spent a record $1.47 billion on Cyber Monday, according to the Internet data tracking firm comScore. That's up 17 percent over last year's $1.25 billion and represents the heaviest online spending day in history.

It's also the second day so far this season that online sales topped $1 billion. The other was Black Friday, which rang up $1.04 billion in sales, a 28 percent increase. coined the term Cyber Monday in 2005 to reflect the bump in online spending after Thanksgiving weekend when shoppers get back to work -- and their computers. As more retailers offered sales, Cyber Monday grew in popularity and became the top online spending day starting in 2010.

Also of note this year were online sales on Thanksgiving Day, which got a big boost from earlier-than-ever Black Friday specials. Sales reached $633 million on the holiday, up 32 percent from 2011.

Wendy's is getting a fresh look inside and out. The fast-food chain introduces its new restaurant design today at the store at 13119 U.S. 301 S in Riverview. The restaurant is one of about 60 prototypes nationwide and just the second in Florida with the new "ultra-modern" design inspired by the work of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The first opened last week in Kissimmee.

Wendy's is rolling out four designs to beef up its curb appeal and dining experience, Each has a fireplace, a Wi-Fi bar, private booths, lounge seating and flat-screen TVs. (Sounds kind of like Panera Bread?) Restaurants with an "urban" design have opened in Spring Hill and New Port Richey.

The newly designed restaurants have menu items not available at other locations, from baked-on-site chocolate chunk cookies to Oreo brownies. They also carry flavored coffees and hot teas. Select Tampa Bay locations are set for makeovers next year. The changes seem like a vast improvement. Just don't mess with the Frosty.

Going into retail is paying off for a Florida State University student from St. Petersburg. Rinsha Prophete on Monday was named one of 24 college students to win the National Retail Federation's Ray M. Greenly Scholarship. The annual awards are given to top students with a strong passion for retail. Winners receive $5,000 scholarships and $2,500 to attend Retail's BIG Show in January in New York City.

Inspired by the TV show Project Runway, Prophete is majoring in retail merchandising and product development at FSU and spent eight weeks interning with Macy's store management program. She told federation officials she knew she wanted to go into retail when she couldn't wait to see the JCPenney catalogs.

Prophete, 20, is set to graduate from FSU in December 2014.

I decided a few years ago to tell my daughter, now almost 6, that the Santas at the mall are actually Santa's special helpers because the "real" Santa is in the North Pole getting all the gifts ready. It simplifies the story and eliminates the tough questions: "Why does Santa have a fake beard?" and "Why is Santa skinny?"

So, I really like this free Santa message service that lets kids hear jolly St. Nick without seeing him. For the third year, CallAll, a voice conferencing firm based in Boston, is offering a daily holiday greeting from a very Santa-sounding Santa. Kids can leave a message or just hang up. Nothing naughty; no strings attached.

The nice part is that for every call received, CallAll will make a donation to the Joslin Diabetes Center High Hopes fund. Call (218) 936-2100 or go to

Source: (c)2012 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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