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Thu Jul 31 01:21:16 SAST 2014

Online retailers brace for Cyber Monday

Sapa-AP | 26 November, 2012 09:54
File picture of a paper keyboard.
Image by: THINKSTOCK

Black Friday is a distant memory. Small Business Saturday is long gone. Now, it’s Cyber Monday’s turn.

Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed a spike in online sales on the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday, is the next in a series of days that retailers are counting on to jump-start the holiday shopping season.

It’s estimated that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row: According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20% from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.

Amazon.com, which is starting its Cyber Monday deals at midnight on Monday, is offering as much as 60% off a Panasonic VIERA 55-inch (140-centimeter) TV that’s usually priced higher than $1,000. Sears is offering $430 off a Maytag washer and dryer, each on sale for $399. And Kmart is offering 75% off diamond earrings and $60 off a 12-in-1 multigame table on sale for $89.99.

Retailers are hoping the deals will appeal to shoppers like Matt Sexton, 39, who for the first time plans to complete all his holiday shopping online this year on his iPad tablet computer. Sexton, who plans to spend up to $4,000 this season, already shopped online on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday and found a laptop from Best Buy for $399, a $200 savings, among other deals.

“The descriptions and reviews are so much better online so you can compare and price shop and for the most part get free shipping,” said Sexton, who lives in Queens, New York, and is a manager at a utility company.

Sexton also said it’s easier to return an online purchase to a physical store than it had been in previous years. “That helps with gifts,” he said.

How well retailers do on Cyber Monday will offer insight into Americans’ evolving shopping habits during the holiday season. With the growth in high speed Internet access and the wide use of smartphones and tablet computers, people are relying less on their work computers to shop than they did when Shop.org, the digital division of trade group The National Retail Federation, coined the term “Cyber Monday.”

As a result, the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday has become busy for online shopping as well. Indeed, online sales on Thanksgiving Day, traditionally not a popular day for online shopping, rose 32% over last year to $633 million, according to comScore. And online sales on Black Friday were up 26 percent from the same day last year, to $1.042 billion. It was the first time online sales on Black Friday surpassed $1 billion.

For the holiday season-to-date, comScore found that $13.7 billion has been spent online, marking a 16% increase over last year. The research firm predicts that online sales will surpass 10% of total retail spending this holiday season. The National Retail Federation estimates that overall retail sales in November and December will be up 4.1% this year to $586.1 billion  But as other days become popular for online shopping, Cyber Monday may lose some of its cache.

To be sure, Cyber Monday hasn’t always been the biggest online shopping day. In fact, up until three years ago, that title was historically earned by the last day shoppers could order items with standard shipping rates and get them delivered before Christmas. That day changes every year, but usually falls in late December.

Even though Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest shopping day this year, industry watchers say it could just be a matter of time before other days take that ranking.

“Of all the benchmark spending days, Thanksgiving is growing at the fastest rate, up 128% over the last five years,” said Andrew Lipsman, a spokesman with comScore.

As a result, the period between the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and Cyber Monday has become busy for online shopping as well. Indeed, IBM Benchmark, which tracks online sales, said on Thanksgiving, a day that historically had not been big for online shopping, online sales this year rose 17.4% over 2011. Of that, mobile shopping, or shopping on smartphones and tablets, rose 18.3%. Meanwhile, online sales on Black Friday were up 20.7 percent.

For the overall holiday season, comScore predicts online sales will be up 17% to $43.4 billion.

And the research firm expects online sales to surpass 10% of total retail spending this holiday season. The National Retail Federation estimates that overall retail sales in November and December will be up 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion,  “People years ago didn’t have the kind of connectivity to shop online at their homes. So when they went back to work after Thanksgiving they’d shop on the Monday after,” said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org. “Now they don’t need the work computer to be able to do that.”

But as other days become popular for online shopping, Cyber Monday may lose some of its cache. To be sure, Cyber Monday hasn’t always been the biggest online shopping day. In fact, up until three years ago, that title was historically held on the last day shoppers can order items with standard shipping rates and get them delivered before Christmas. That day usually falls in late December.

Even though Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest shopping day this year, industry watchers say it could just be a matter of time before other days take that ranking.

“Of all the benchmark spending days, Thanksgiving is growing at the fastest rate, up 128% over the last five years,” said Andrew Lipsman, a spokesman with comScore. Many major retail chains such as Walmart opened their doors to offer special doors Thursday evening, getting a head start on Black Friday.

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