Retailers go from in-store to online holiday push
Retailers, after pulling out all the stops for the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, are now trying to lure holiday shoppers online.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Best Buy Co Inc, Sears Holdings Corp, Staples Inc and Toys "R" Us have posted special deals on their Web sites, hoping consumers will jump from in-store shopping to online buying.
The discounts are part of what has been termed "Cyber Monday" by retailer network Shop.org. It is meant to mark the start of the online holiday shopping season, when consumers log on at work to search for gifts they did not find in stores over the Thanksgiving weekend.
But "Cyber Monday" is typically not the biggest online shopping day of the season, and this year, retailers did not wait until after Thanksgiving to make a cyber push.
Retailers began posting online discounts Thanksgiving day and some so-called "Cyber Monday" sales started on Sunday or will extend until Friday.
The online deals come as retailers worry that shoppers, squeezed by the slowing U.S. housing market, higher food and fuel costs and the credit market crunch have cut holiday spending plans, and that fear may have been affirmed over the Thanksgiving weekend.
More than 147 million shoppers hit U.S. stores this Thanksgiving weekend, but average consumer spending fell, according to a National Retail Federation survey that included data from Thursday to Saturday and projections for Sunday.
The survey found customers spent an average of $347.44, down 3.5 percent from $360.15 last year.
That has retailers relying heavily on their Web sites to offer special deals or advertise holiday discounts.
"We're going to continue to see the Internet become the vehicle for the brick-and mortar stores to promote big values," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group.
Walmart.com is offering special prices online for 150 items this week - three times more than a year ago - posting roughly 65 discounts on Monday and then adding new deals to the site daily through Friday.
Best Buy began "Cyber Monday" deals on Sunday and will offer special prices through Monday. Toys "R" Us offered online discounts Saturday and Sunday, and the toy retailer is planning to offer special online deals intermittently from now until Christmas.
According to a Shop.org/Shopzilla eHoliday Survey, 72.2 percent of online retailers are planning a special promotion for Monday, up from 42.7 percent two years ago.
Promotions will range from specific deals, to one-day sales, to free shipping on all purchases, the survey found.
Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst for comScore, said the Internet research firm is expecting online sales to reach $700 million on Monday, up from $608 million last year. That would make it the heaviest online shopping day on record.
"The caveat is that we also expect daily sales figures to climb over the next couple weeks to mid-December," he said. "So Cyber Monday will mark the first significant peak in online spending, but it will not be the heaviest day of the season."
Lipsman said the current record is $667 million, reached last year on December 13.
Walmart.com said it saw a surge in online traffic on Thanksgiving day, attracting roughly 10 million visitors - a significant jump from its typical traffic of 2 million daily visits during other times of the year.
Walmart.com said sales were up more than 40 percent on Thanksgiving, compared with a year ago.
The retailer expects 7 million visits to its Web site on Monday.
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