Cyber Monday gains slow from 2013 as consumers shop earlier


Spencer Soper (c) 2014, Bloomberg News.

SAN FRANCISCO – Internet holiday shopping rose 8.7 percent on Cyber Monday, slowing from the same time frame last year as consumers spread their online purchases over more days.

While sales Monday – typically the busiest day for Web shopping as U.S. consumers return to their desks after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – had increased by mid-afternoon, the growth wasn’t as fast as last year when sales had jumped 18.7 percent in the same period, according to IBM Corp.

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The slowdown took place even as, EBay and other online retailers cut prices on electronics to lure shoppers. Amazon was touting its Fire TV streaming device for $69 as part of its Cyber Monday promotions. EBay was featuring discounts on laptops and notebooks of various brands. Gap and other retailers were also offering discounts of 40 percent in their online stores Monday.

The slower pace of growth on Cyber Monday reflects an earlier start to the shopping season, with some retailers like Amazon offering online deals a week before Black Friday, according to Jay Henderson, strategy program director at IBM.

“It’s not like the day isn’t growing, its just that the additional growth is being spread more evenly on other days,” Henderson said.

Online shopping on Saturday and Sunday was up 17 percent compared with the same weekend in 2013, Henderson said. IBM began measuring online sales on the weekend before Cyber Monday last year in response to the sales covering a broader period.

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The broader retail industry had a disappointing holiday kickoff on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Spending fell an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier, the National Retail Federation said Sunday.

Cyber Monday is typically seen as an opportunity for retailers to “stem some of the bleeding,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Black Friday becomes more irrelevant every year,” said Mulpuru, who predicts online shopping will reach $89 billion this holiday season. “Black Friday has been eclipsed by Cyber Monday, shipping cutoff dates in December, and even Thanksgiving.”

Ben Hemminger, chief executive officer of online retailer Fashionphile, abandoned Cyber Monday sales last year because they didn’t help his business. Instead of giving discounts on Cyber Monday this year, the company offered a free $4,000 Chanel handbag as a way to draw visitors.

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“Picking a certain day to kick off a sale doesn’t work as well as it used to, because all the other retailers offer deals earlier and earlier,” Hemminger said. “When you start moving that date back, the significance of Cyber Monday or Black Friday is diminished.”

Total post-Thanksgiving spending fell to $50.9 billion, down from $57.4 billion in 2013, according to the NRF. It was the second year in a row that sales declined during the Black Friday weekend, which had long been famous for long lines and frenzied crowds seeking door-buster deals on electronics.

This year, many shoppers stayed home. The NRF had predicted that 140.1 million customers would visit retailers last weekend. Instead, only 133.7 million showed up. The slow start may make it harder for retailers to hit sales targets over the next month. The NRF had predicted a 4.1 percent sales gain for November and December – the best performance since 2011.

Holiday shopping is key for retailers – with sales in November and December accounting for about 19 percent of annual revenue, according to the NRF – and more of that is shifting online. While e-commerce orders are growing, they’re still dwarfed by brick-and-mortar sales.

As of Sunday, holiday shoppers had spent $22.7 billion online this season, up 15 percent from a year earlier, according to ComScore Inc. That includes more than $1.5 billion on Black Friday.

Sales at Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, jumped 46 percent on Saturday and 24 percent on Black Friday, according to ChannelAdvisor Corp. That exceeded total e-commerce growth on those days, the research firm found.