Despite hovering fears of a double-dip recession since early summer, the U.S. consumer has stood strong.  Research firms ComScore and Retail Metrics recently released data indicating that retailers, especially large chains, are experiencing encouraging sales increases over last year. Yes, consumers are shopping again, and a bright holiday shopping season is in the works.

Beginning Black Friday and continuing throughout the weekend following Thanksgiving, this year’s holiday shopping period started strong and reflected a more hopeful consumer attitude.  Against the ominous backdrop of high unemployment, the Conference Board consumer confidence index hit 54.1 in November, the highest level in five months.  Overall, sales surged more than 7 percent in the past 12 months.  Large retailers performed even better, with a full 85 percent of chains exceeding forecasts.

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, was the biggest online shopping day in history.  ComScore reports that online spending on Cyber Monday exceeded $1 billion for the first time ever.  More than 9 million shoppers initiated 17 million transactions on Cyber Monday, a 19 percent increase over last year.  Online shoppers jumped on aggressive promotions and discounts, free shipping offers and overall convenience.

More billion-dollar online spending days are expected before the holiday shopping season is over.  And, while growing quickly, online shopping is only around 10 percent of total holiday spending.  One question hanging over the Cyber Monday’s numbers is how much worker productivity was lost on time spent shopping online from work computers.  Perhaps proving there is a survey for everything, CareerBuilder’s annual “holiday shopping from work” survey indicates that almost 30 percent of employees plan to shop on-line at the workplace.