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Not necessarily a rush of shoppers on Cyber Monday

Posted: December 2, 2008 10:59 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2008 4:59 a.m.
 

Just two days after the dust from "Black Friday" settled in stores across the country, shoppers took part in "Cyber Monday," what is supposed to be the online shopping realm's take on the year's busiest shopping day.

Despite the hype, not all were impressed by the day's deals.

With years of avid Cyber Monday shopping behind him, Newhall resident Jeff Wilson, of Newhall, found nothing to entice him this year.

"I looked at several sites, Amazon, Newegg.com, Overstock, Woot.com and such, but didn't see compelling offers for Cyber Monday," said Wilson, a database administrator for the Newhall School District.

"I think this year the big Web sites did a little more on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday."

The term was coined by the National Retail Federation trade group in 2005 to describe the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, and the unofficial kickoff for the busy online retail season.

According to the Federation's 2008 Black Friday survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than 172 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over Black Friday weekend, up from 147 million shoppers last year.

Total spending reached an estimated $41.0 billion, according to the Federation's Web site.

"I think more stores put an emphasis on Black Friday to cash in on the hysteria," Wilson said. He also wonders if the distinction between Black Friday and Cyber Monday will fade as online shopping becomes more popular in general.

But computer consultant Bruce McFarland, of Saugus, said retailers might be focusing on bringing in foot traffic overall as opposed to online shoppers.

He is not necessarily a Cyber Monday shopper, but as a consistent online shopper he recently saw something he's never seen before.

Target's Web site advertised a television at a cheaper price than promoted in TV ads broadcast over the weekend, but shoppers could only purchase the television in-store, he said.

"That's sort of new and different this year," he said. "I think (businesses are) starting to do that to pull shoppers into the actual stores."

Despite concern over minimal Cyber Monday bargains, some online retailers pushed a bounty of deals.

Amazon.com took up to 65 percent off watches and offered one-day deals such as a knife set that was usually $157 on sale for $49.99.

Online auction site eBay.com held what it called the largest sale in its history, with hidden $1 holiday doorbuster items which consumers could search the site for, including a 65-inch Panasonic plasma HDTV and a 2009 Chevy Corvette. The site also offered items typically in demand for the holidays, with bids
starting at $1.

Toys "R" Us offered 70 percent off "Star Wars" figures, $50 off the normally $59.99 Guitar Hero guitar controller from Activision and other deals.

But whether all the deals, rebates and discounted offers helped remains to be seen. Industry tallies of
Cyber Monday sales are not yet complete.

"Last year, people were spending a lot more money on gifts and products," said Jeff Wisot, vice president of marketing for online retailer Buy.com. "With the economic challenges arising this year, people are definitely spending less."

Consumer spending has dropped dramatically - down 1 percent in October, the largest amount since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks - as consumers grapple with a shaky economy, mounting job losses and a prolonged housing slump.

The National Retail Federation expects overall holiday spending will total about $470.4 billion this year, a 2.2 percent rise from a year ago and the slowest growth since 2002. Online retail is being hit along with brick-and-mortar stores. ComScore, a digital technology monitoring company, said on Oct. 25 it expects online retail spending for November and December to be flat compared with the same two months in 2007.
Last year's growth rate was 19 percent.

The expected slowdown in online growth is "dramatically different than what we've seen," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. "Consumers are not in a rush to shop."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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