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Holiday shoppers head online this year

By Aaron Smith, staff writer and Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Online shoppers turned out in force on Cyber Monday -- the day after a strong holiday shopping weekend -- with a retail group predicting a 10% increase over last year.

Merchant websites drew 1,333,336 global page visits per minute during the noon ET hour, according to e-commerce tracking company Akamai. While that was a solid number, it was actually a little below the noontime peak of 1,337,601 page visits per minute globally three days earlier, on Black Friday, which is supposed to be the big day for traditional stores.

Some 106.9 million Americans plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, compared to 96.5 million last year, the National Retail Foundation (NRF) said. Most will be doing so from work -- the NRF said about 70 million Americans will shop from their jobs this year.

Online shopping allows shoppers to avoid the madhouse atmosphere of crowds scrambling for doorbusters. Deals can be found online, as well as in stores, according to the NRF. The retail group reported that 88% of retailers will have a special promotion for Cyber Monday.

But until recently, Cyber Monday was overhyped in terms of discounts for consumers, said Brad Wilson, founder and editor-in-chief of BradsDeals.com.

"[Cyber Monday] was, without a doubt, overhyped for the first several years," said Wilson. "Just in the last year, maybe two, I've seen it get much better from a consumer standpoint. You can name any online store and they are doing their largest coupon of the holiday season."

Wilson said there were 60.5% more online coupons for this year's Cyber Monday than there were last year.

Cyber Monday follows a seemingly successful Black Friday weekend.

The NRF reported 212 million shoppers went to stores and websites between Thanksgiving and Sunday, up from 195 million shoppers during the same period last year. The average shopper spent $365.34 during Black Friday weekend 2010, compared to $343.31 during the same weekend last year, the NRF said. Total spending for the weekend was $45 billion.

Millions of shoppers flooded stores such as Toys R Us and Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) on Black Friday, lured by promotional discounts.

The recent increase in online shopping was significant. The NRF reported that 33.6% of shoppers this past weekend were online -- an increase from last year, when 28.5% of the shoppers were online.

Other researchers also reported a surge in online holiday shopping. comScore, a digital marketplace research firm, said that online sales totaled $648 million on Black Friday -- a 9% jump from last year. That makes Black Friday the heaviest day of online spending so far in 2010, according to the report.

Amazon was the most popular shopping site on Black Friday, experiencing a 25% boost in traffic, according to comScore. Other leading sites included Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), Target (TGT, Fortune 500) and Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500).

From clicks to bricks

However, data from ShopperTrak showed that sales in brick and mortar stores for the entire weekend were little changed from last year, although traffic was up sharply.

The Chicago-based retail research group said foot traffic in U.S. stores increased 2.8% over Friday, Saturday and Sunday as "value driven consumers" responded to deep discounts. But sales for the three-day period edged lower to $20.485 billion from $20.493 billion for Black Friday weekend in 2009.

Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, said in a statement that the data "means the American consumer shopped very economically." He added that retailers offered deals earlier than normal this year, which drove traffic higher in the first part of November and stole some thunder from Black Friday weekend.

"The reality is retailers set up a different game plan this season by offering deep discounts and promotions earlier than ever which has shifted some spending to earlier in the month," he said.

Looking ahead, Martin believes sales in December should receive a boost from procrastinating shoppers. For the month, ShopperTrak expects sales to climb 3.2% and traffic to rise 1% versus December 2009.  To top of page

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