Cyber Monday deals help retailers

December 1, 2008 6:33:53 PM PST
With the battered economy, there is not much optimism among retailers this holiday shopping season, even on Cyber Monday. The Monday following Black Friday, called Cyber Monday, is basically a marketing gimmick to get people to shop on-line right after Thanksgiving.

Deep discounts, free shipping, buy one-get one free, are ways retailers have pulled out all the stops online and at the stores to get shoppers to spend. It worked, but will it last?

It's not your imagination. The shopping crowds were smaller over the weekend after Friday's frenzy. Retailers rang up an estimated $10.6 billion on Black Friday, then it dropped to $6 billion on Saturday. Still, that was 1.9 percent higher than last year. Those same retailers were also online, trying to coax consumers to spend. Kristen Ramos was one of them.

"So far I've saved about 30 percent of what I would normally spend if I were to go to a store with online discounts and early-bird specials and stuff like that," said Ramos, a San Francisco resident.

There were plenty of Cyber-Monday deals. John Squire, a chief strategy officer, tracks online retail at San Mateo-based Coremetrics. The company tracks 300 shopping sites, including the big national chains.

"It looks like a lot of people have cut back on their spending Saturday and Sunday so the real question when we looked at it this morning was, has activity jumped up like we've seen in the past years, and we didn't see that," said Squire.

The stakes can be high. It's estimated a retail website can generate sales equivalent to 10 of its physical stores combined.

This weekend, online shopping at department store sites stood out. The number of orders completed was up 12 percent and the number of items per order was up 30 percent. However, consumers are spending less, typically between $76 and 100. Last year, shoppers spent over $100.

The retailers who are sometimes forgotten during the Black Friday and Cyber-Monday frenzy are small shops like these in San Francisco's Hayes Valley. Propeller has eclectic items for the home.

"The weekend was actually pretty good for us. After a slow October and November, the weekend kicked in reasonably well," said Lorn Dittfeld, a Hayse Street merchant.

While a boutique called Lava 9 was a bit disappointed.

"There was definitely less business than the year before. I could feel it. There were like some spots when I didn't have many customers, and then it came in waves," said Andrea Suess, a Lava 9 manager and designer.

Coremetrics says online shopping did pick up during the course of the day. More definitive numbers are due out later in the week. The National Retail Federation says nearly 40 percent of shoppers they surveyed, indicated they've done the bulk of their shopping over the weekend.


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