Business

Web deals shine in so-so start to shopping season

NEW YORK — Retail Web sites kept amping up the deals Monday, the first day after Thanksgiving weekend's strong online sales, to try to maintain the momentum.

Meanwhile, a research firm that tracks business at stores reported tepid sales and customer traffic for Friday and Saturday that confirmed a so-so start to the season for the bricks-and-mortar world.

Though the Web is only about 10 percent of the holiday shopping pie, it has seen most of the growth so far this year — an encouraging sign after last year's first online sales decline.

Coremetrics, a Web analytics company in San Mateo, Calif., said that as of Monday afternoon, sales for the day that the industry still pitches as "Cyber Monday" were up 19.6 percent over a year ago.

The bright spot offers hope after traditional retail sales came in just above flat for the Friday after Thanksgiving, with shoppers packing stores but sticking to their lists, going for deep discounts and practical items.

ShopperTrak, which is based in Chicago and tracks sales and traffic at more than 50,000 outlets, said late Monday that retail sales for Friday and Saturday edged up 0.9 percent to $16.77 billion, while customer traffic fell 2.7 percent compared with last year.

The ShopperTrak results contrast with a report Sunday from the National Retail Federation on its poll indicating that more shoppers flocked to stores but each spent less than last year.

The dueling assessments show the difficulty of gathering and interpreting holiday weekend results. A fuller picture won't be known until Thursday, when major retailers report November sales figures.

Deeply discounted electronics such as flat-screen TVs, game systems and netbooks were popular, but more practical items such as appliances and home decor were also big sellers, as consumers took advantage of sales to buy things for themselves.

Many shoppers started looking for online deals ahead of Monday, as retailers stretched their online deals over several days.

Target, Walmart, Amazon.com and other retailers started offering online specials on Thanksgiving or even earlier.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group, said this year saw the "graying of Black Friday," because deals that typically occurred only on the Friday after Thanksgiving have been spread out over two weeks.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is usually far from the busiest online shopping day of the year, but it is typically one of the 10 busiest. Analysts expect Dec. 14, the last day consumers can order goods and have them arrive before Christmas, will be the busiest online shopping day.

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