Business

Cyber Monday still reality for retailers

As long as there has been online shopping, there has been Cyber Monday.

But is that now more virtual than real?

Online retailers for the past decade have counted on the Monday after Thanksgiving to deliver for Web merchants what Black Friday does for brick-and-mortar stores — a turbo boost into the holiday shopping season. Online sales have surged on that Monday as many people hopped on to their employers' fast Internet connections to do some holiday shopping when they returned to work after Thanksgiving.

But with more than 60 percent of U.S. homes sporting high-speed Internet, more people are flipping through those online catalogs at home, said Ken Cassar, vice president of the Nielsen Co.' s online research division.

As a result, more online stores aren't waiting until Monday to get the party going. They're throwing their own Black Friday events. Some, including Amazon.com, are doing deals every day this week.

That doesn't mean Cyber Monday will evaporate, however. That's because some people still shop at work, away from the prying eyes of family members. It's become more of a marketing hook that retailers want to keep alive.

"Retailers liked the marketing focus," Cassar said. "It remains a big shopping day, but it's now fueled more by retailer marketing and promotion."

That means online merchants will be out in force trumpeting Cyber Monday specials.

More merchants say they plan to offer some type of promotion such as free shipping or extra discounts Monday, 87 percent compared with 83 percent last year, according to a survey by Shop.org, the online division of the National Retail Federation. Shop.org's Web page this year lists Cyber Monday specials offered by 650 of its member merchants.

Whether that will help lift online retail sales this holiday is up for debate. Shop.org, whose members tend to be bigger merchants, said a survey of 60 retailers showed 70 percent of respondents expected online sales to grow this holiday over last year.

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