Let's talk about happiness. (We'll save sex for another day—again!) When folks are happy they tend to be more confident, right? Or is it the other way around? In any case, plenty of people were both happy and confident enough about the economy this past holiday shopping season to ... sit around, clicking buttons! Hurray! At least that's what our good friends over at comScore are telling us. Yesterday they put out a report on 2009 e-retailing during November and December and total spending hit $29.1 billion. That's a 4% increase over the 2008 e-shopping numbers. Of course the 2008 holiday season was all about re-gifting that leftover tuna sandwich you couldn't finish, but let's not think about that for a minute.
Instead, let's think about happiness. Other happy stats: on Thanksgiving Day, 2009, we spent $318 million on Internet-found gifts, 10% more than in 2008. So-called Black Friday last year saw an 11% leap in cash outlay from 2008, to nearly $600 million, and Cyber Monday spending totaled $887 million, a 5% bump from the previous year. The retail sectors that scored the most were jewelry, watches and electronics, nabbing a cumulative 35% slice of that delicious shopping pie.
On the one hand, these gains seems slightly modest when you consider that more Americans than ever are online and online with faster Internet connections, and also just how terrible the Fall and Winter of 2008 were economically. On the other hand: we'll totally take any positive numbers we can!
Next I'd love to see a breakdown of this e-spending by state to see how or how not it jibes with a new study on happiness. That study, which appeared recently in the journal Science, correlated happiness, not surprisingly, with quality of life. The surprising part was that Louisiana, for all its hardship, ranked first in bliss, while New York state was dead last. California is near the bottom, too. Perhaps accounting for this apparent surprise, one of the study's authors suggests that because both New York and California are perceived as highly desirable places to live, lots of people move there, causing congestion, longer commutes, higher rents, and other happiness-sucking qualities. So we are reminded that sometimes perception can shape reality. Take the free market, for example, where confidence is so key. As long as the right numbers head in the right direction—like a 4% increase in e-retailing—our confidence can't help but edge up. And that should make more people happy.