Monday, December 1, 2008

Shoppers set for Cyber Monday

So forget standing in line at daybreak like lots of folks did on Black Friday. Today it's Cyber Monday, when shoppers leisurely do their buying with a click of the mouse instead of leaving the house.

What the traditional Black Friday start of the holiday shopping season is to brick-and-mortar retailers the day after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday is to the online shopping crowd.

"I dread going into stores these days, but especially at this time of year," said Chuck Eglington of Farmington, who is shopping for a Nintendo Wii video game console for his family. "It's so much easier to find deals online, order right from the computer and have everything delivered right to your door. And Monday is online deal day, to be sure."

Still, Eglington is cutting back. "It just doesn't seem prudent to be a big spender this year."

Just as the economic downturn is expected to turn total retail sales from brick-and-mortar stores flat or slightly down this year, online shopping is expected to be off last year's pace.

Last year on Cyber Monday, online retailers racked up a one-day record of $733 million in sales.

This year, the industry is hedging its predictions.

That's because from Nov. 1-23, online sales were down by 4%, the first time such a thing has happened during that period since online shopping began in the mid-1990s. Some $8.2 billion was spent online during the first 23 days of the month this year, compared with $8.5 billion last year, according to the online research firm comScore.

In West Bloomfield, Laura Forest is cautiously ready to start scrolling the sites today. She has her targets lined up. But she, too, is cutting back.

"This year, we will purchase books and clothing online," she said. "We are reducing our spending this year, and are looking for online retailers who are willing to provide free shipping."

She shouldn't have trouble finding that.

Most online merchants are hawking Cyber Monday special deals, offering free or reduced-cost shopping and running special product promotions, says Scott Silverman, executive director of

"As shoppers focus on price this holiday season, online retailers will be extremely competitive to offer the very best deals," he said.

But guess where all the shopping is done?

According to a BIGresearch survey, this year 73 million people will shop for holiday gifts from work. That works out to almost 56% of workers with Internet access.

Despite the gloomy economy, the Cyber Monday hype this year is unprecedented. Sites like began leaking Cyber Monday special promotions last week. Its Web site has an e-mail service that sends out the day's best deals. And for those on the move, it even has a mobile site that lets shoppers find specials from their cell phones.

There's a bit of a myth to the Cyber Monday moniker, though. It got its name back in the in 2005, bestowed by the National Retail Federation's The group had noticed a huge 77% spurt in business the Monday after Thanksgiving, when frustrated consumers, tired of standing in line at the mall or finding their top gift items sold out, turned to the Internet. But the really busy online day comes in a couple of weeks. This year, it is expected to be Dec. 18, the last day for standard delivery to reach most places in the United States in time for Christmas.

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