Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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December 2, 2013

Shoppers go on-line after cautious Black Friday

Corsicana — Allen Coker of Corsicana wasn’t a happy shopper on Thanksgiving.

The Corsicana resident described his venture into Walmart for the big sales as “a madhouse.”

“I stood in line for an hour to get the grill and then stood in line for an hour to check out,” he said.

The alternative for those who don’t like crowds or lines is Cyber Monday, when retailers offer sales for on-line shoppers, akin to Black Friday specials.

Cyber Monday was projected to be the busiest day of the year for online shopping, according to the trade group The National Retail Federation. It predicts more than 131 million people will shop online this year, up about 2 percent from last year.

And research firm comScore expects Cyber Monday sales of $2 billion, up from about $1.47 billion last year. Online sales account for about 10 percent of total holiday spending, which is expected to grow about 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion for the months of November and December.

Early results show online shopping was up 21.4 percent compared with the same time last year, according to figures by IBM Benchmark released at noon Monday. Mobile traffic, which includes smartphones and tablets, accounted for 31 percent of all online traffic.

“We’re expecting to see strong gains as retailers roll out new promotions and make new products available on their websites,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM. “Online commerce seems to really be driving this holiday season.”

Cyber Monday comes after retailers’ failed efforts to boost spending during the holiday weekend. They offered big discounts in early November, and several opened stores on Thanksgiving Day. But The National Retail Federation predicts that spending fell for the first time ever, down 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion, during the four days that ended Sunday.

This despite the fact that the number of shoppers was up. They just spent less.

Total spending was expected to fall for the first time ever since the trade group began tracking it in 2006, according to the survey that was released on Sunday afternoon. Over the four days, spending fell an estimated 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion.

Shoppers, on average, were expected to spend $407.02 during the four days, down 3.9 percent from last year. That would be the first decline since the 2009 holiday shopping season when the economy was just coming out of the recession.

The survey underscores the challenges stores have faced since the recession began in late 2007. Retailers had to offer deeper discounts to get people to shop during the downturn, but Americans still expect those “70 percent off” signs now during the recovery.

And stores may have only exacerbated that expectation this year. By offering bargains earlier in the season, it seems they’ve created a vicious cycle in which they’ll need to constantly offer bigger sales. Shoppers who took advantage of “holiday” deals before Thanksgiving may have deal fatigue and are cautious about buying anything else unless it’s heavily discounted.

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of The National Retail Federation, said that the survey results only represent one weekend in what is typically the biggest shopping period of the year. The combined months of November and December can account for up to 40 percent of retailers’ revenue.

Overall, Shay said the trade group still expects sales for the combined two months to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That’s higher than the 3.5 percent pace in the previous year.

But to achieve that growth, retailers will likely have to offer big sales events. In a stronger economy, people who shopped early would continue to do so throughout the season. But analysts say that’s not likely to be the case in this still tough economic climate.

In keeping with that, this year so-called Cyber Monday seems to have stretched into Cyber Week or even Cyber Month, with retailers such as Amazon and Walmart rolling out online deals since the beginning of November.

On Monday morning, Abercrombie & Fitch was offering 50 percent off everything online plus free shipping. Target had deals including $70 off a 32-inch TV with a Roku streaming stick, on sale for $230 and a Dyson vacuum for $400, $200 off.

Amazon started its cyber deals on midnight on Sunday, including half-off some toys and half off a 46-inch Samsung LED HDTV at $478. And Walmart began offering online-only deals on Saturday, including $500 off a 55-inch LED TV bundle and free shipping on orders over $35.

Brandon Harris, 27, from Memphis, Tenn., started shopping at midnight Sunday and by Monday had spent about $300 and completed half of his Christmas shopping, including a Barbie doll for his niece and a TV for his mother.

“I haven’t shopped for a Christmas present in a store in three years,” he said, making purchases from his iPad instead. “It’s a lot more convenient to be at home and shop.”

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