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Black Friday Draws More Online Interest

Weekend buying could take bite out of Cyber Monday.

Outside of Barnes & Noble on Black Friday.

Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday are eating into Cyber Monday.

This holiday, more retailers than ever offered price promotions online even before their stores opened on Black Friday, while more consumers skipped the crowds and mayhem to shop online. According to Coremetrics, a marketing optimization company, online sales increased 15.9 percent on Black Friday, with the average order value up to $190.80 from $170.19, a 12.1 percent increase.

Adam Bernhard, chief executive officer of HauteLook, an online flash sale site, said Black Friday sales at the company were up 130 percent year over year. “We’re growing steadily,” he said. “More people are moving to the Internet. We saw great sales on giftable items such as luxury watches, handbags and scarves. We’ve seen our [consumer] going from shopping just for herself to gifting.”

While many people think Cyber Monday is the biggest day for e-tailers, Bernhard said, “Our busiest day of the year is about a week away. Cyber Monday will be fourth or fifth busiest day of year.”

“Cyber Monday already started and will continue all the way through the season,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with The NPD Group. “[E-tailers] are using online as the continuous sale of the season. Cyber Monday has never been the busiest online shopping day; the biggest day is 10 days before Christmas.

At eBay, peak buying hours on Black Friday were 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. MST. Meanwhile, sales from eBay’s mobile apps in the U.S. nearly doubled over Black Friday 2009. Globally, eBay mobile is on track to nearly triple its sales over last year. EBay expects mobile sales to exceed $1.5 billion this year.

In women’s wear, Ugg boots were popular at $99, almost 40 percent off, according to a spokeswoman. So was a Hayden cashmere sweater for $69 at Bluefly’s eBay store.

But while apparel was popular, the biggest categories online mirrored those at brick-and-mortar stores: consumer electronics and toys were in strong demand.

“It continues to be the growth opportunity,” said NPD’s Cohen of e-commerce. “Now, penetration of laptops and computers is higher than it’s ever been.”

That doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar stores still didn’t pull out all the stops for the Black Friday weekend. Toys ‘R’ Us doubled the number of holiday pop-up stores it opened to 600 and unveiled 10 FAO Schwarz pop-up locations in “top-tier” malls. Bestsellers are expected to include a Justin Bieber doll, Dance Star Mickey and Chuggington trains. The retailer gave consumers an online preview of more than 60 unadvertised “Mystery Deals” on Nov. 23 at toysrus.com. Mobile offerings included coupon barcode scanning and mobile messaging, mobile-enabled e-commerce sites and an interactive iPad App.

Most retailers believe Cyber Monday won’t be as big as it’s been in the last few years. However, Shop.org, which coined the term “Cyber Monday” five years ago after seeing the trend to online shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving, said retailers have even bigger plans for the Cyber Monday this year. In a survey of 51 retailers and nearly 8,800 consumers done with BIGresearch, 49 percent of the retailers responding said they have specific promotions for today, up from 42.9 percent last year. One-day sales would be up 41.2 percent, versus 32.9 percent last year, as is free shipping on all purchases (21.6 percent versus 15.7 percent last year). In addition, the majority of retailers (62.7 percent) will send promotions and deals to shoppers through a special Cyber Monday e-mail.

According to the survey, 54.5 percent of workers with Internet access, or 70.1 million people, will shop for holiday gifts from the office this year.

“Even though much of the Cyber Monday shopping is shifting to early mornings and late nights, there’s something to be said for being able to shop online for holiday gifts without worrying about curious children or spouses looking over your shoulder,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president, strategic initiatives, at BIGresearch. “Many businesses understand that Americans’ work and personal lives are merging, and would rather have employees shopping online at work than driving all over town during their lunch hour looking for the perfect gift.”