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Black Friday, Cyber Monday Kick off Season

The National Retail Federation reported "more shoppers spent less" on Black Friday. Meanwhile, online traffic for Cyber Monday jumped.

An estimated 195 million shoppers hit stores and shopped online from Thursday, Nov. 24 to Sunday, Nov. 27, up from 172 million last year. BigResearch, which conducted the study, projected Sunday shopping levels.

Total average spending fell 7.9% to $343.31 per person from $372.57, for total spending of about $41.2 billion.

Department stores drew a bigger percentage of shoppers than did discounters, reversing a trend that has been in place for months. Nearly half (40.4%) of shoppers visited department stores, a 12.9% increase for the channel compared to last year.

Discount stores captured 43.3% and outlet stores 7.8%. Electronics stores received visits from 29.0% of shoppers, followed by online retailers (28.5%), clothing stores (22.9%) and grocery stores (19.6%).

"Department stores have done an admirable job touting both low prices and good quality, which are important requirements for holiday shoppers on a budget," said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and ceo.

The most purchased items included clothing (50.9%) and books (40.3%), which consumers shopped at roughly the same level they did last year. Nearly one-third (32.2%) of shoppers purchased toys, up 12.9% from last year. Other categories experiencing greater spending were sporting goods (12.6% vs. 11.4% last year), personal care or beauty items (22.4% vs. 19.0%) and gift cards (21.2% vs. 18.7%).

Consumers shopping online waited until before and after office hours, forgoing their lunch breaks, to do their Internet-based holiday shopping Nov. 30, or Cyber Monday — the ceremonial kickoff to the online holiday shopping season.

A survey released on Nov. 29 by Shop.org and conducted by BigResearch found that 41.5% of those making a purchase on Cyber Monday were planning to shop early in the morning and a "sizeable number," specifically 32.9% and 22.7%, respectively, planned to shop in the early evening or late evening.

"With more people shopping on Cyber Monday this year and an increasing number of retailers offering promotions, this was the largest — and most important — Cyber Monday yet," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org.

The shift in spending coincides with a decline in people shopping from the office. According to the survey, 91.5% of shoppers planned to shop from home on Cyber Monday while just 13.5% planned to shop from work.

"Since retailers began highlighting Cyber Monday promotions five years ago, Americans' spending patterns have changed." Silverman continued. "More families have high-speed internet access at home and don't need to rely on their work computers to make holiday purchases, which makes the early morning and evening hours crucial for retail sales."

The survey also found that 96.5 million Americans planned to shop on Cyber Monday this year, up from 85 million in 2008. And retailers were standing by to deliver to bargain hunters: nearly nine in 10, or 87.1%, of retailers offered a special promotion for Cyber Monday, up from 83.7% last year and 72.2% in 2007.

"While many online retailers are breathing a sigh of relief after a successful Cyber Monday, they will quickly shift their focus to finding ways to bring shoppers online for the rest of the holiday season," said Silverman, adding that "many websites" an experience another "huge surge" in traffic the week of Dec. 14, when shipping offers begin to expire.

"So companies are taking lessons learned from Cyber Monday and planning to implement minor changes over the next few weeks," he continued.

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