Cyber Monday Shopping

Cyber Monday Kicks Off Online Season

By Andria Cheng | NEW YORK (Dow Jones)

–Preliminary results from the Black Friday weekend have pointed to a mostly positive start to the industry’s biggest selling period.

The number of people who shopped stores and online between Thursday and Sunday jumped 8.7% to 212 million shoppers, according to a National Retail Federation survey of 4,306 shoppers conducted by BIGresearch. The total amount spent during the four-day weekend reached an estimated $45 billion, with the average spending rising 6.4% to $365.34, the survey showed.

A flood of doorbuster deals from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Target Corp. (TGT) to Best Buy Co. (BBY) and Macy’s Inc. (M) , coupled with earlier-than-ever store openings and offers of free shipping sent shoppers in a mood to spend. The number of those who began their Black Friday shopping at midnight tripled this year to 9.5% while those who shopped on Thanksgiving day itself also have doubled over the past five years to 22.3 million, the survey showed. Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, marks the traditional kick off to the holiday season sales. It’s again expected to be the biggest sales and traffic day this year for at least the fifth straight year, mall-traffic tracker ShopperTrak data showed.

“While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going.”

Shoppers also showed their appetite for discretionary items has increased, the survey showed. That echoed remarks from Macy’s Chief Executive Terry Lundgren and from malls including the Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township, Mich. and Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va.

Retailers including Target and Staples Inc. (SPLS) and mall owner Taubman also said Friday they have seen better traffic or sales trends at stores and properties surveyed Friday morning.

As a sign that shoppers are more comfortable to spend beyond the basics, the number of people who purchased jewelry over the weekend rose substantially, from 11.7% last year to 14.3% this year, the NRF said, adding more people purchased gift cards, toys, and books and electronic entertainment than a year ago. The survey also showed men outspending women this weekend.

Online specific data from IBM’s Coremetrics also pointed to strong momentum in the early part of the season with total sales up more than 14% between Thanksgiving and Saturday. Average order size was up 14% while items per order were up 15% during the time, Coremetrics data showed.

There’s also some reports of caution.

Mall-traffic tracker ShopperTrak estimated Black Friday sales rose a less than expected 0.3% to $10.69 billion even as traffic increased 2.2%. The slower-than-expected sales were partly due to early holiday sales and promotions that boosted sales and traffic in the first half of the month, ShopperTrak said.

“This means the American shopper has adapted to the economic climate over the last couple of years and is possibly spending more wisely as the holiday season begins,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

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