Retailers shift into overdrive during the holiday season. They hire temporary workers by the thousands, expand business hours, and restock their shelves faster than at any other time of the year.
The holiday crush stretches retailers like no other time. And businesses can achieve some truly incredible feats under pressure like that. Here are some examples.
1. Package delivery expert FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) plans to move 19 million packages through its network on one day -- Monday, Dec.10. The company says that will make it the busiest day in its history, with deliveries to be processed at an estimated rate of 200 per second. FedEx expects to ship a record 280 million holiday packages in total this season.
2. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) stores saw over 20 million visitors on Thanksgiving Day. And on Black Friday the company logged 10 million register transactions in just four hours. At peak shopping times, sales were rung in at a rate of 5,000 per second. That partial-day sales haul included 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, and 250,000 bicycles.
3. Online spending topped $1 billion for the first time on Black Friday, according to comScore. And that was just the beginning. Daily Internet sales figures have eclipsed that milestone twice since, led by the $1.5 billion haul on Cyber Monday. Next up is what eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY ) calls "Green Monday" (falling on Dec. 10 this year), traditionally its busiest day of the year. Shoppers spent $1.1 billion during Green Monday last year.
4. The National Retail Federation estimates that 247 million shoppers participated in Black Friday weekend shopping this year, up from 226 million in the year before. That's more than the entire U.S. population of adults, according to the last Census count.
Department stores like Macy's (NYSE: M ) were big traffic draws that weekend, pulling 53.5% of shoppers in for a visit this year, up from 48.7% last year. Macy's says it enjoyed "the largest-volume Thanksgiving weekend in [the] company's history."
5. Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN ) sales are expected to hit $22 billion this holiday quarter. That figure is more than 40% of all of last year's e-commerce spending over the same period. It would also represent more money than was spent on all online shopping -- across all merchants -- for the first 32 days of this year's holiday season.
6. Total holiday spending on gift cards should clock in at more than $29 billion this year. And a trip to the coffee shop looks set to be one of the most popular gifted items: Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX ) expects that 1 out of every 10 Americans will receive one of its gift cards this season.
7. According to Akamai, Cyber Monday shattered online traffic records at Web retailers. Shoppers filled up their digital shopping carts all day, but traffic peaked in the evening at about 9 ET.
That's when the firm clocked traffic on retail sites at over 8.5 million page views per minute. That's the highest retail traffic level on record, 16% higher than Black Friday's surge.
8. Credit cards are getting a workout, too. Visa (NYSE: V ) processed $5 billion over the four-day period from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. That's an increase of 20% from last year's figure. Cyber Monday alone accounted for $2 billion of Visa's purchase volume. While total spending leapt, Visa saw a small decline in average spending, indicating that shoppers are expanding the universe of products that they're shopping for online.
9. Console gaming can still power epic entertainment sales. Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI ) broke its own records with its newest installment in the popular Call of Duty franchise. The game grossed over $1 billion in just 15 days, besting last year's entry in its climb to that milestone. That draw also ranks among the biggest entertainment rollouts yet, even eclipsing the opening take of the 2009 blockbuster Avatar.
And there's one extra record that should benefit all of the consumer retail sector. Because of when Thanksgiving fell on the calendar this year, we have 32 days -- the maximum possible amount of time -- between Thanksgiving and Christmas day. So, smack in the middle of the longest available holiday shopping season, retailers still have plenty of time left to keep raising the bar.
Everyone knows Amazon is the big bad wolf in the retail world right now, but at its sky-high valuation, most investors are worried it's the company's share price that will get knocked down instead of competitors'. We'll tell you what's driving the company's growth, and how to know when to buy and sell Amazon in our new premium report. Our report also has you covered with a full year of free analyst updates to keep you informed as the company's story changes, so click here now to read more.