Cyber Monday: Will online shopping save the economy?
If you get caught shopping online at the office today, here’s your excuse: You’re not goofing off. You’re saving the US economy, one click at a time.
That’s because it’s “Cyber Monday,” the day US retailers promote as the unofficial kickoff of the Internet holiday buying season. Hour by hour, online merchants are trotting out unprecedented deals, trying to boost one of the few retail sectors expected to grow this year.
About half of all employees with Internet connections are expected to shop at work today, or at least browse, according to a survey from Shop.org. Thus, for a few hours at least, the two words most important to America’s fiscal recovery may not be “Ben Bernanke” but “free shipping.”
“As shoppers focus on price this holiday season, online retailers will be extremely competitive to offer the very best deals,” said Scott Silverman, Shop.org executive director, in an analysis released last week.
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Ahem. To continue, Internet holiday shopping will increase at least 10 percent in 2008, measured against last year, according to the Purdue Retail Institute. Total online Christmas spending is predicted to be $35 billion to $40 billion.
That sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But it represents only about 7 to 9 percent of all US holiday shopping.
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Please, please! Sorry about the interruption. Anyway, Black Friday, the first shopping day after Thanksgiving, saw better sales than many bricks-and-mortar stores had expected. Receipts for the day were up 3 percent, year over year, to $10.6 billion, according to ShopperTrak RCT.
Traffic was slower over the weekend, and deep discounts are cutting into store profitability. But strong online sales, coupled with the brighter start to the holiday season, at least might save the US retail sector from the apocalyptic holiday some stores fear.
“It is encouraging to see that Americans seem excited to go shopping again,” said National Retail Federation President Tracy Mullin.
Of course, one can be excited about shopping yet remain averse to hunting for a parking space, not to mention that piped-in, hip-hop remix of “O Tannenbaum.”
That’s where online holiday retail comes in.
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That’s it! I’ve had it! It’s bad enough my e-mail inbox was stuffed this morning with pages of pleading discounts from retailers I didn’t even know existed. Really, how much candy can nougat.com sell? Now they’ve gotten desperate and they’re breaking into serious news, and we in the mainstream media will not stand for it!
Pardon me, the systems administrator appears to be trolling for a deal on new bath towels, and there’s been a breakout from our spam quarantine. Where were we?
Oh yes, participation. About 135 million consumers will buy online this holiday season, according to the Purdue Retail Institute. The peak days for online retail will likely be Dec. 8 through 12, which is the latest time consumers believe they can order on the Internet and get their goods delivered in time for Christmas.
The busiest hours for online shopping are noon to 4 p.m., as workers use high-speed office Web connections to speed their online shopping carts to checkout. Industry groups say that most of this shopping occurs during lunch hours, but they’re probably just being diplomatic.
“No one really knows how many work hours are lost as workers shop online,” according to Richard Feinberg, a professor of retail management with the Purdue Retail Institute.
Seventy-five to 80 percent of online retailers will be offering special holiday inducements for 2008, according to various industry surveys. These include discounts on popular items – Best Buy is offering $10 to $15 off iPods purchased online, for instance – to free monograms, free shipping, and personal delivery on a pillow by a CEO who’s sobbing with gratitude.
Sorry – that last one’s made up.
Mondays are typically the biggest online shopping days. In the early 2000s, retailers began to notice that the first Monday after Black Friday was one of their biggest days of the year. Hence “Cyber Monday,” a phrase coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005 in an attempt to brand the day with an identity and publicize it, so more shoppers would join in.
“Cyber Monday” even has its own website, CyberMonday.com, where retailers can post their promotions and holiday savings.
Thank you. Now it’s time for yours truly to surf the Web to try to find something nice for my wife.
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