This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
The winter gift-giving season is responsible for twenty percent of all retail spending at American businesses.
But how and when people buy holiday gifts is changing.
Record numbers of Americans are turning to the Internet. More than one hundred million people are expected to buy something online this holiday season.
Traditionally, the biggest shopping day of the year was in late November on the day after Thanksgiving. People still call it "Black Friday." The idea was that it could push businesses "into the black" -- the traditional color for recording profits. Red is for debts.
But now the busiest days are right before Christmas. Many people wait for last-minute price reductions.
With the rise of the Internet, the National Retail Federation came up with a new term. "Cyber Monday" is the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The idea is that many people look in stores over the weekend. Then, to save time, they order online using the Internet at their jobs when they return to work.
Cyber Monday is a big day online. But market researchers at comScore Networks reported Wednesday that the biggest day of the holiday season so far was December thirteenth. The company said people spent almost six hundred seventy million dollars at American sites that day. That did not include travel sites.
Online spending during the holiday season was up a reported twenty-five percent over last year. ComScore estimates that online holiday spending will reach almost twenty-five billion dollars.
Online selling makes it easier for businesses to react to changing conditions. It costs less to change the advertising on a Web site than in stores.
Physical stores remain by far the most popular places to shop. But electronic commerce continues to grow, and not just at Christmastime. In the three-month period ending in September, it made up almost three percent of all retail sales in the United States.
But wherever selling takes place, the holiday season means intense competition. For example, demand for flat-panel televisions has jumped recently. Competition has pushed down prices for these popular thin TVs. The Best Buy Company reported selling some at a loss to avoid losing market share to big competitors like Wal-Mart and Circuit City.
And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. You can download MP3 files and transcripts of our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Bob Doughty.