Shoppers search for Cyber Monday deals

Online shopping tips from the Better Business Bureau
November 30, 2009 4:23:34 PM PST
If you spent some time shopping for deals over your lunch hour, you're not alone. More than 90 million Americans are expected to shop online this Cyber Monday. Over the weekend, online retailers clogged computer inboxes with special offers in an attempt to get shoppers to break out their credit cards this Cyber Monday, the day online stores offer deep discounts.

E-tailers are already cashing in-- sales are up 11-percent this holiday season.

"I did a little shopping about 2 hours ago online," said Dennis Austin, Sr., online shopper.

"I'm not a big Cyber Monday person but I tried it a little bit today, why not?" said Toni Knoop, online shopper.

"Everybody has a lunch break so I don't think it's hard to squeeze in a few minutes to get some of your Christmas shopping done," said Antonio Scholz, online shopper.

Scholz is one of more than 90-million Americans expected to shop online Monday. Early signs of a strong Cyber Monday follow reports that retailers saw a slight increase in store sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and are now looking to keep customers shopping by offering even better deals online.

"The pricing is considerably less than it was one month ago, than it was 6 months ago, than it was 12 months ago," said Brad Wilson, founder, Bradsdeals.com. "Years past it was hype but the retail landscape is more competitive so the pricing is fantastic now."

Wilson founded Bradsdeals.com, a website that offers online coupons for stores. It's one of the sites Scholz is using to save money while doing her Cyber Monday shopping.

"I just bought my brother guitar hero today and I got it for 25 dollars. Normally, it's 70-something so you can get some pretty darn good deals," said Scholz.

The busiest shopping day of the year is expected to be December 14, one of the last days shoppers can get their gifts shipped in time for Christmas.

Better Business Bureau tips

The Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) has some tips to help shoppers avoid scams this Cyber Monday.

  • The bureau urges consumers to trust their instincts because offers that sound too good to be true often are.

  • Some tips include keeping documentation of online orders and checking credit card statements often for suspicious activity.

  • A computer used for shopping should have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, antivirus and anti-spyware software.

  • Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised -- or within 30 days. If the goods aren't shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund.

    Holiday shopping off to mildly encouraging start

    After shoppers gave retailers a somewhat encouraging start to the holiday shopping season, stores now turn their attention to the online promotions known as Cyber Monday and bringing back customers the rest of the season.

    The good news is that holiday shopping held steady through the Thanksgiving weekend after retailers saw a huge crowd of bargain shoppers for early morning deals Friday.

    But economic worries about jobs were still apparent as shoppers mostly stuck to their lists and focused on practical items for themselves and for their loved ones. The big worry is that consumers may not return until the final hours before Dec. 25.

    According to preliminary figures released Saturday by ShopperTrak, a research firm that tracks more than 50,000 outlets, sales rose 0.5 percent to $10.66 billion Friday, compared with a year ago. That was on top of a 3 percent increase last year.

    Online sales Thursday and Friday, however, rose 11 percent to $913 million, according to data released Sunday by comScore, an Internet research firm. Online business got a big boost as stores pushed online promotions the week leading into the Thanksgiving weekend.

    The National Retail Federation trade group said Sunday it's sticking to its forecast for holiday sales to decline 1 percent from last year.

    A year after suffering the biggest sales decline in four decades, the nation's merchants pulled out all the stops in stores and online to keep the momentum going for the holiday weekend, further blurring the lines between their Web-based and land-based businesses.

    Major merchants including J.C. Penney Co. and Sears Holdings Corp. broke new ground by making many of their Black Friday specials available on their Web sites at the same time.

    The heavy online push could steal some thunder from sales on Cyber Monday, the day when sellers unveil another raft of discounts online to lure shoppers looking in after returning to work.

    Marketing gurus have started calling the season a "Twitter Christmas" as merchants have been tweeting deals and previewing discounts on Facebook pages.

    Sears tweeted its bargains through the weekend, spokesman Tom Aiello noted Sunday.

    "Forget Black Friday for bricks and Cyber Monday for clicks -- this year it's all about making it easy for customers to satisfy their shopping fix ... wherever and whenever," said John Long, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon Associates.

    Long, however, noted that "we're still seeing cautious spending. The pie isn't increasing whether you decide to buy in the stores or online."

    Laura Gurski, a partner in the retail practice at A.T. Kearney, a global management consultant, believes the weekend's results offered signals that consumers, many of whom had cut spending all year to bare-bones necessities, had saved up for the holidays and were opening their wallets -- even if just a little.

    Shoppers' cautious mood was evident.

    Allentown, Pa. resident Jamie Sandrock, 27, who was visiting New York City on Saturday and was outside toy store FAO Schwarz, said she got up at 7 a.m. Friday and took advantage of online deals on Amazon.com, American Eagle Outfitters and Sephora.

    That's a big change from the Black Fridays of years past, when Sandrock would get up at 3:30 a.m. to head to Target or Best Buy.

    "Last year, I was part of the stampede," she said. "This year, I didn't have to shower. I didn't have to get dressed. All I had to do was click."

    But Sandrock, who has been trying to find a job in nursing since she graduated from college in May, said she's slashing her holiday spending to $350 from last year's $500.

    Michelle Nuanez of Rio Rancho, N.M., who was checking out toys at Target in Albuquerque on Saturday, said she thought about waking up before dawn and heading to Walmart Friday. Then she thought better of it.

    "You might save a couple of dollars here or there, but so far I haven't seen anything that's a really good deal as far as toys go," she said.

    Nevertheless, reports Sunday from malls and stores were comforting and different from last year when stores had a decent Black Friday before sales tanked the rest of the season.

    The Mall of America in Minneapolis, saw 325,000 visitors Friday and Saturday, the most in 17 years. Spokeswoman Bridget Jewell said traffic remained steady through the weekend and said she's fairly confident that weekend sales will rise from last year.

    Taubman Centers, which operates 24 malls, said sales Friday were up anywhere from mid-single digits to double digits compared with a year ago, according to spokeswoman Karen MacDonald. On Saturday, sales were anywhere from unchanged to up slightly.

    Shoppers bought about half the items sold for themselves, she said, but the buying was focused on basics like denim, fleece jackets and boots, as well as electronics.

    A more complete sales picture won't be known until Thursday, when the nation's retailers report November sales.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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