‘Cyber Monday’ highlights online holiday shopping

By John Biers, AFP

NEW YORK–The early buzz is that “Black Friday” shopping weekend was a bit of a disappointment for retailers, but hopes remained high that “Cyber Monday” would score big gains. This year’s installment of Cyber Monday, which offers up its own plethora of online promotions on the heels of the aggressive “Black Friday” price-cutting, comes amid greater-than-ever signs of the increased importance of online shopping to the entire retail industry. Forecasters project just three to four percent growth in the entire retail sector this holiday season, while online shopping is expected to soar 13 to 14 percent in the 2013 season.

“The overall season for November and December is off the roof,” Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight, said of online trends. “Some of the retailers have sold out of all their online goods.” Christopher estimates that online shopping will account for 13.5 percent of the total retail shopping sales this holiday season, up from 12.3 percent last year. In an update released midday Monday, IBM Digital Analytics said that 2013 Cyber Monday online sales were on track to rise 21.4 percent from last year.

Online shopping has always had its appeal in enabling consumers to avoid mobbed shopping malls.

Major trends that encourage even more online retail include the increased importance of online sales to brick-and-mortar retailers like Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy, the proliferation of same-day and other fast-delivery options that could allow more shoppers to shop online until just before Christmas and the advent of new mobile technology tools to shop. Retailers consider the holiday shopping period, which has traditionally begun on Thanksgiving, as the most year’s most important season, accounting for 20 to 40 percent of an individual retailer’s overall sales. Analysts have described the U.S. consumer as cautious in the 2013 season, owing to low economic growth and weak job growth. Wealthier consumers are considered somewhat more likely to spend this year, due to higher home prices and appreciating stock values. The National Retail Federation Sunday gave a somewhat disappointing early appraisal of Black Friday weekend, estimating that total sales reached US$57.4 billion, a 2.7-percent decline from last year’s US$59.1 billion.