E-Retailers Offer Cyber Monday Deals

An Amazon.com employee grabs boxes to be loaded onto a truck at the company's Fernley, Nev., warehouse.
An Amazon.com employee grabs boxes to be loaded onto a truck at the company's Fernley, Nev., warehouse. (By Scott Sady -- Associated Press)
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Online retailers rolled out the deals yesterday in an effort to entice penny-pinching consumers during the final leg of the post-Thanksgiving shopping marathon.

Women's accessories site Endless.com advertised $30 off purchases of $100 or more until 11:59 p.m. yesterday. The online Apple Store offered free shipping on everything. Gap's shoe and handbag site Piperlime.com discounted all merchandise 20 percent. (Coupon code: Monday.)

So-called Cyber Monday kicks off the holiday shopping season for online retailers and provides an important barometer for the weeks to come, just as Black Friday does for stores. The trade association Shop.org began promoting the day three years ago after members reported sales spikes when consumers returned to work from the holiday and indulged in online shopping.

"Many people who didn't want to fight the crowds or get up early to stand in line over the weekend have been waiting until Cyber Monday to start their holiday shopping," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org.

The market research firm comScore reported that previous sales on the Mondays after Thanksgiving have jumped more than 20 percent year to year, mirroring the overall increase in online retail sales. But Internet sites are not immune from the economic slump plaguing their bricks-and-mortar brethren this holiday season.

ComScore said November sales through Black Friday were down 4 percent compared with the previous year. It estimates that sales for the season will remain flat at $29.2 billion. Many retailers were hoping yesterday's boost would be large enough to at least temper such predictions.

"With so much volatility right now in the variables that influence consumer spending, predicting where this online holiday season will end up has been far more challenging than in previous years," said Gian Fulgoni, comScore's chairman.

Surveys of online spending over the weekend showed varying results. Hitwise reported that traffic was down 5 percent on Friday and 8 percent on Saturday at the top 500 retail sites compared with the previous year. But an index of about 120 online retailers compiled by Nielsen showed traffic was up 10 percent on Black Friday compared with the previous year.

Statistics from yesterday's shopping bonanza are not expected until today at the earliest. But a National Retail Federation survey showed that about 85 million Americans planned to fill a checkout basket yesterday, an 18 percent increase over last year. Spokeswoman Ellen Davis said a site it maintains with Cyber Monday deals had registered 4.3 million visitors by mid-morning, nearly the same number that visited during the entire day last year.

Amazon.com spokesman Craig Berman said the company began offering holiday promotions early last week and continued them yesterday. One-day sales yesterday included $180 off stainless steel cookware and 60 percent off DVD packages. Berman said heavy traffic was expected on the site yesterday but that its busiest day typically comes during the second week of December.

Walmart.com chief executive Raul Vazquez said some of the site's heaviest traffic comes on Thanksgiving as shoppers research their Black Friday game plans. About 60 percent of customers at the site also shop at Wal-Mart stores each week, Vazquez said. But Cyber Monday rakes in more sales, he said.

"We feel pretty good about our business right now as we go into the holiday," Vazquez said. "In these times, customers migrate to value."

At eBay.com, nearly 3,200 Nintendo Wii games were sold on Black Friday alone for an average price of $349, according to Jim "Griff" Griffith, eBay marketplace expert. He said many eBay sellers are offering free shipping this year to compete with larger retailers. Others are adjusting their prices to match this season's aggressive discounting.

For the first time, the auction site worked with several sellers to provide limited $1 holiday doorbusters hidden throughout the site, including iPod nanos and Elmo Live dolls. Yesterday, a 2009 Chevy Corvette was up for grabs for $1. No one had found it as of early afternoon, Griffith said.

John McAteer, director of retail for Google, said shoppers this year are particularly price-conscious. The Internet search engine noticed an uptick in searches for Black Friday starting in October, about a month earlier than usual, he said. McAteer also said searches for discounts and promotions such as buy-one-get-one-free have also been popular.

Though many retail experts do not expect Internet retail to continue to experience heady sales growth this year, the increase in online sales likely will continue to outperform those of stores.

"For most retailers that we speak to, online still remains kind of their bright spot," McAteer said. "They understand the sphere of influence is much broader than just a click."

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