E-Tailers Now Look to 'Black Monday'

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It's official. The kickoff to the holiday shopping season online is now "Black Monday," the Monday after Thanksgiving.


While brick-and-mortar retailers consider their official start to be Black Friday, so named because the day after Thanksgiving is when retailers' books legendarily go from in the red to the black, Web merchants and online divisions of multichannel sellers increasingly claim Monday as theirs.


Sharper Image Corp., San Francisco, said that online orders were $1.13 million Dec. 2, up 90 percent from $594,000 the Monday after Thanksgiving last year.


ComScore Networks, Reston, VA, the company that claims to have coined "Black Monday" for e-tailing a year ago, said online sales were $380 million Dec. 2, up 49 percent from last year. Comparatively, online sales Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving, were $151 million, up 40 percent from last year, comScore said.


Many Internet users rely on their computers at work for high-speed access and, much to some employers' consternation, do their online shopping there. This results in a spike at e-commerce sites the day people return to work after the long Thanksgiving weekend.


"We've once again seen this dramatic surge reflected in Monday's online sales," said Michelle Adams, vice president at comScore.


Discount online apparel merchant Bluefly Inc., New York, said sales for Dec. 2 rose 35 percent over the comparable Monday last year.


"The Monday after Thanksgiving is clearly the day where the gloves come off and the shoppers attack Web sites with full vigor," Bluefly CEO Ken Seiff said. "What you also see is that Friday night after Thanksgiving there is significant volume, but the real portal to [online] holiday shopping starts Monday."


Seiff also said that Bluefly's average order sizes are up 20 percent.


"People are buying more expensive items," he said. "We're seeing more leather, suede and designer handbags being sold."


Online backpack and luggage merchant eBags.com reported that Dec. 2 sales rose 168 percent from last year. Peter Cobb, co-founder and vice president of marketing at eBags, Denver, said that Dec. 2 beat eBags' biggest sales day ever -- Dec. 11, 2001 -- by 44 percent.


"I don't want to say I'm blown away, but I'm very pleasantly surprised," he said. As of Dec. 4, "we're up 89 percent over where we were last year."


Cobb said he's thankful that eBags' vendors fulfill their own orders.


"We wouldn't have the cash or the guts to predict we'd be up over 100 percent today" over the same day last year, he said.


But a surge for eBags shouldn't be a surprise. Mail-order sales overall were unusually sluggish last year because many consumers feared anthrax contamination in the U.S. postal system. What's more, travel-related sales were hit hard because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Also, just before this year's holiday season, eBags struck deals to have its products featured on Buy.com and Amazon.com. The company also sent out its first catalog last month.


Meanwhile, the weekend before Black Monday wasn't chopped liver for online merchants, either.


Liquidator Overstock.com, Salt Lake City, reported $2.5 million in sales over the weekend, up 150 percent from the same period last year.


ComScore said non-travel sales growth rates overall were 67 percent Nov. 30 and 115 percent Dec. 1. Total online sales for the week ending Nov. 29 were $1.5 billion, up 41 percent over Thanksgiving week last year, comScore said.


To reach its conclusions, comScore said, it monitors the buying behavior of 1.5 million Internet-user volunteers and extrapolates.


BizRate.com, a company that claims to monitor online sales using point-of-sale and fulfillment surveys of customers at 2,000 retailers, said shoppers spent $234.2 million online Nov. 29, up 61 percent from the day after Thanksgiving last year. Online sales Nov. 1-29 were $5.4 billion, up 37 percent from that period last year. BizRate said this is particularly impressive because Black Friday fell six days earlier last year, making the online shopping season six days longer.


Close in line with BizRate's $5.4 billion online sales estimate for Nov. 1-29 was an eSpending Report from Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings saying that U.S. consumers spent more than $4.5 billion online in the first three weeks of November. That's in excess of $1 billion more this year than the first three weeks of November 2001, the report determined.


The report, which tallies the results of weekly surveys of 750 online shoppers, also said online spending per person rose to nearly $88 in the week ending Nov. 22, up 22 percent over the previous week and 8 percent over the same period last year. Survey respondents said they have allocated 19 percent of their budgets for online purchases, compared with 16 percent last year.


Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation, said that in the last two weeks of November, 31 percent of its retailer members posted revenue increases of 50 percent or more compared with the same period last year, and 58 percent posted increases of 25 percent or greater.


Also, Nielsen//NetRatings reported that 18 percent more Internet users shopped online Nov. 29 compared with the daily average for the four preceding days.


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